GOD knows when our government will exploit the iconic Dona Paula jetty to its full potential! The place has been underexploited, even though for decades it has been one of Goa’s topmost tourist attractions. The view from the top of its rocky headland of the infinite spread of the Arabian Sea and the two great rivers of Goa, the Zuari and the Mandovi sweeping headlong into it from the flanks, is simply breathtaking. There is no place in Goa like Dona Paula. It has the power to make the most bored visitors forget their fatigue with its beauty, serenity and infinity. Yet, and yet, Dona Paula is an amazing place also in its wretched and terrible state.
It is crying for repairs once again barely a few years after it was renovated. The last renovation was carried out in 2009 by M Venkata Rao Infra Projects at a cost of Rs 5 crore. It has been found by a Mumbai-based private agency, S P Bagwe Consultants engaged by the Goa State Infrastructure Development Corporation (GSIDC) that the work carried out was substandard and inferior quality of cement was used. The repairs on columns, beams and slabs have deteriorated. The reinforced cement concrete (RCC) members in the bridge in old and new jetties were below the required design strength. With the S P Bhagwe Consultants’ report indicating that the jetty and the allied infrastructure is not safe for public use it is evident that money spent on repairs has gone down the drain. The public, whose money was spent on the substandard repairs, has a right to ask the government to penalize the contractors and the supervising officials.
A note presented by PWD officials to the government says in view of dangerous status of the jetty, the link road and other parts the entry of people and vehicles to the jetty should be stopped. The PWD officials want the government to decide on whether to repair the jetty as recommended by the consultant or demolish it and reconstruct it, considering the cost-benefit ratio. Repairs or renovation works carried out in the recent past were cosmetic in nature. The authorities were apparently more interested in rehabilitating the hawkers, who had set up stalls illegally, and enjoyed political patronage. In view of smaller money spent on repairs, it is evident that the focus of renovation or repairs was on just widening the approach road or the bridge so as to accommodate the hawkers, rather than stabilizing the decades’ old jetty and other infrastructure. While carrying out cosmetic repairs, the authorities appear to have forgotten to give a thought to the wider perspective and carry out a structural audit of the jetty and other infrastructure and ensure that every issue was addressed and that the jetty was safe for public use.
The jetty has been closed for public for one reason or the other in the past. With the suggestion given by the consultants that it be closed for public use it is going to be out of bound for the public for an indefinite period. The closure of the jetty would deny tourists a visit to one of the most amazing sites Goa has to offer. Plans to restart launch service would also have to be put off. The government needs to rise above politics. Accommodating hawkers is not the issue here. But for that reason the government seems to be dilly-dallying on a decision on carrying out extensive repairs as suggested by the consultant or demolishing it and constructing it afresh despite the fact that a note was presented to it a year ago. It is time the government started evaluating the tourist sites from the point of view of exploiting it for attracting more tourists.
In course of carrying out repairs it has to be ensured that the hawkers are located in a special zone and their cubicles are designed to contain them within a range where they do not cause hindrance to movement of public and traffic. The work on repairs or new construction should be carried out in a time-bound manner and the authorities have to ensure that the new jetty or the repaired one has a life of at least 50 years. The best way to make Dona Paula a great tourist site will be to demolish it and reconstruct it according to a design and plan that has features that can make the place much more interesting and entertaining for tourists and resident Goans alike. In its present state, Dona Paula has the feel of rust, corrosion and cracks. One way is to mend those faults. The better way is to rebuild it into the top wonder of Goa.