Herald: Descending into CHAOS in Cortalim

Descending into CHAOS in Cortalim

09 Jun 2019 05:34am IST
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09 Jun 2019 05:34am IST
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If commuters passing through the Cortalim junction think the situation is bad, imagine the ordeal, residents of the area have to face every day. While the monsoon season is upon us, the authorities are yet again guilty of poor planning and it is the people who will have to bear the brunt when the roads get flooded. Not only will the burgeoning traffic issue become even more problematic, it’s going to be a nightmare for Aravlem locals. DHIRAJ HARMALKAR looks at what is being done to redress these problems

here was a time when the stretch from Verna to Zuari bridge was a delight for commuters. You would pass through lush green fields with large trees lined up across the road. Today, you are met with a dust bowl and have to travel at a snail pace, causing long delays and massive hardships for the commuters. The situation is as bad for tourists who have complained of missing their flights or inter-state buses as they are caught up with the traffic jams. Imagine then, the plight of local Aravlem residents whose lives have been affected severely as the very access to their houses are blocked, houses which are surrounded with dust 24/7 and they hardly have space to even park their own vehicles.  While the work on the construction of the Zuari bridge and flyovers have disrupted their lives, they are about to face yet another ordeal as the drains that were to be constructed before the monsoons have not been completed and once the monsoon sets in, there is a high possibility of their houses being inundated with water. 


Have stop-gap measures at Cortalim junction worked? 


Against the backdrop of the problems of the incomplete drainage construction at the Aravlem road stretch as well as the problems that came with the road diversions which has seen narrow access for vehicles traveling in both directions, questions have been raised as to how effective these solutions have been. 
The trenches that were supposed to prevent the clogged rain water on the road from entering the houses, which are at the close proximity of the main road, have not been constructed.
While there have been multiple inspections by various government departments, usually after a day –long traffic jams, recently locals along with Cortalim MLA Alina Saldanha had inspected the area, which was soon followed by another inspection by Chief Minister Pramod Sawant. 
Aravlem locals who live right next to the main highway have been exasperated with the delay in the construction of the drainage. To their shock, only after an inspection by MLA Saldanha, was it revealed that the work on the drains, which was supposed to have been completed before the monsoons had not even started yet.  Locals had even warned of blocking the highway if the drains were not constructed at the earliest. 
While the Dilip Buildcon Limited (DBL) promised to complete the work, they have missed multiple deadlines, which led to further inspections.  
A few days ago, Chief Minister Sawant gave the locals a ray of hope after he assured around 50 residents who had gathered at Saldanha’s office in Upasnagar that the work will be completed soon. 
He was informed about their fears and the possibility of flooding and water clogging. Locals pointed out that the fact that the concrete road has been built at a level higher than the ground level (where their houses are located), the resulting slope from the concrete road to the area on either side, will see water flowing into their houses. Locals also pointed out that rainwater that flows down from the hills in the vicinity will also collect at the ground level and cause flooding in the absence of proper waterways.  
Commuters on the other hand are also worried about water clogging and sludge from the construction sites blocking the road, which will invariably slow down the traffic and even lead to accidents. 
Commuters and locals alike are not convinced about the proposed diversion plans given that the roads leading to the ferry point are narrow, especially the short stretch from the Cortalim ferry point to the main junction. Similarly the road next to Agassaim police station, which goes inside towards the ferry point is also narrow and in bad shape.  Doubts have been raised whether these narrow roads can handle the traffic during the rainy season with the proposed ferry point services, which are meant to help solve the traffic problems. 
On a similar note, the proposed parallel road meant to diver the traffic, which was supposed to come up near the Konkan Railway tracks has now been delayed due to the monsoons.  During the CM’s recent inspection, he assured the road will get completed in another eight months time, which means this option can only be used only by March next year. 


Ferry service proposed to divert traffic in emergency


One of the measures that have been proposed to counter the traffic congestion during any emergency that may arise during the monsoon period and thereafter is the use of the ferry service that will connect traffic from Cortalim to Agassaim. The government is pinning their hopes on this service to try and contain the situation. However, government officials cautioned that the ferry service will be used as a last resort during emergencies such as major accidents, bridge related work, tree falling and other such cases. 
James Braganza, Captain of Ports Braganza said at the recent disaster management meeting, the feasibility of this alternate option was discussed.  He added that there are a total of four ferry ramps, two at the Agassaim side, while the remaining two are at the Cortalim side. “From these four, two ferry ramps from both sides are operational presently. If in case of heavy traffic jams, the other two ferry ramps to facilitate the congested traffic, can be used. We have also decided to allocate six to eight ferry boats to make quick relief from traffic jam issue during emergency,” said Braganza. 
However, locals have their reservations about this plan. They feel that it will be disastrous as the road leading to the ferry ramp is narrow. In addition, they say, the road has some structures and not enough space for a high volume of four-wheelers and two-wheelers to use the road at the same time and that these bottlenecks will only aggravate the issue. They continue to criticise the plan, stating that the road is in a bad condition filled with potholes and that in the likely case of water logging, loose mud will come onto the road, making it even more dangerous and increasing the possibility of accidents.  “When it rains heavily, there will be chaos for the commuters who use the ferry service, “said a local at the site. 
However, PWD officials played down these fears saying that the conditions of the road will be reviewed whereas Traffic police have expressed confidence in their ability to regulate the traffic in any given situation, pointing out all such scenarios have been discussed and a plan of action is in place. For the locals, they say time will reveal if the proposed solutions can be as effective as they have been made out to be. 


Have the Disaster Management panel’s directives been implemented?


Against the backdrop of the State’s poor response to prior disasters that have occurred in Goa, questions have been raised if the State is capable of handling any potential disaster around the construction stretch, especially during the monsoon season. 
To that effect, recently top officials of various government departments had met for a special Disaster Management meeting, which was convened to look how best they avoid any disaster and also to take precautionary measures given that a major part of the Zuari bridge work is currently underway. Officials from the PWD, Captain of Ports, Traffic Police, Local Police, Civil service officials and Dilip Buildcon Ltd officials were present during this close door meeting. 
Issues pertaining to traffic congestion, bottle neck road ends and preparation for rainy season were discussed. The ongoing cutting of the hill on the road at the Cortalim junction was also discussed wherein measures to avoid any untoward incidents and accidents were spoken about in view of the possibility of mud from the hill falling onto the road. Work underway in that regard was also discussed, measures to avoid mud, sludge from falling onto the road and landslide possibilities were discussed.  This meeting was followed by an inspection of the ferry ramp point. Here, Captain of Ports, James Braganza briefed the officials concerned and also gave instructions regarding the deliberations at that inspection. It was decided that the ferry service from Agassaim ferry point to Cortalim ferry would be begin as a measure to counter the traffic congestion and in case of any emergency. 
Regarding the drainage construction, it is clear that the public will have to wait for another month before the drainage is functional.  PWD was also directed to survey the Cortalim junction to Verna slope stretch and to see if the area, road and fields nearby will get water logged. But locals wonder if this is too late as by the time any remedial measures are implemented, flooding will anyway take place. 
What Dilip Buildcon had to say?
“As discussed in the disaster management meeting recently, we are implementing the instructions given to us by the government authorities on the measures, which need to be taken.  The cutting of the slope on the hill, which was near the main road, has been done which is to avoid landslide and any untoward incident in rainy season which will trigger traffic congestion,” said Atul Joshi, Deputy Director of Dilip Buildcon Ltd.
He further said that cleaning of drains, building of drains etc is in progress and that the ferry ramps will be used during any emergency to facilitate traffic in times of traffic jams, accidents etc. When asked about the roads which will be used to reach ferry point, Joshi said that in times if emergency people will have to use the mud road which reaches the ferry point.
When asked about the status of the incomplete work on the road near the Konkan Railway track, which was meant to divert traffic, Joshi said that the work had been delayed due to the model conduct and other official procedures, which had taken time. He also cited the monsoon season as another reason why they could not undertake the proposed road work. 
Commenting on the work status of the bridge work at the main Cortalim junction stretch, Joshi said that they had expected that the work would have been completed much earlier but due to the traffic congestion issue, road diversion among other issues, that deadline had to be extended as it would get completed later than predicted.  “Once the diversion road is ready the wing lancing of the bridge and minor works will be done and by next June, the main portion of the bridge from Cortalim junction till Verna slope is likely to get completed. This part of bridge work comes in phase two,” said Joshi, while adding that more than 50 percent of the work has been done. 
Joshi further stated that there are two four-lane bridges, for which, the first bridge will be completed first after which; the second bridge will be taken up. “Both bridges will merge into the 6 lane-bridge as per the project plan. Once the one four-lane bridge is ready, there won’t be any traffic congestion" said Joshi. It may be recalled that Chief Minister Pramod Sawant has predicted that the Zuari bridge will be completed by December 2020.  He had made this prediction after reviewing the work under progress. 
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