By Maria Lourdes Bravo da Costa Rodrigues
The NoMoZo movement has attracted lot of interest not only amongst adults but also among children and across the citizenry. As a follow up a local paper carried suggestions from architect Tallulah d’Silva, the inspiration behind the No Motorable Zone to save Amchi Panaji, under which banner the idea functions.
One of the proposals is to use the river transport to exclusively ferry passengers from distant places to Panaji. To quote: "Possibility of using smaller boats/like yacht to exclusively ferry passengers has not been tapped. Also connecting these directly to Panjim from surrounding areas like Chorao, Divar, Betim, Aguada has not been explored yet."
In this context I would like to mention that this mode of transport is not new to Goans. There were boat services by lancha vapor (steamships), which in common parlance were called lancha, vapor or gasolina. These connected some of the far away villages to Panaji exclusively for passengers, during and after the Portuguese regime. However, these have been stopped some years back, probably because their services were underutilised along some routes.
The territory of Goa has a fine network of inland waterways which, in 1972, were navigable for approximately 218 miles with various minor ports namely Panaji, Colvale, Betul and Talpona located on the margins of Mandovi, Agacaim, Zuari, Colvale, Sal, etc.
The Portuguese being a maritime country knew the benefits of making use of rivers crisscrossing the Goan territory. So they introduced the steamship service from near and distant places to give a relatively hustle free service to passengers. In fact, before the motorised public road transport was introduced it was this service that was used to ferry people from place to place. Besides being convenient it was much cheaper. For this service the jetty at the River Navigation Department was used.
In 1930s the system of internal navigation was under the management of Navegação Fluvial, which was a section of the Navigation Department. It had eight steamships at its disposal. These steamships provided conveyance through the channel of navigation to the people from Panaji to Sanvordem; Panaji to Volvoi; Panaji to Aldona; Panaji to Betim and Verem; and Panaji to Mormugão.
These steamships made stops enroute to the final destination. For example the Panaji-Sanvordem left at 11 in the morning and touched Ribandar, Old Goa, Cumbarjua, Cundaim, Dongri, Marcaim, Undir, Durbate, Borim, Raitur, Manaqui and the last stop was Sanvordem On its return trip it left the next day at eight in the morning and reached Panaji around 2 in the afternoon. The steamships were big enough to have different classes as can be seen from the fare. Rupees 2.50 were charged from Panaji to Sanvordem for upper class and 12 annas for lower class. Baggage used to be charged extra.
There used to be a service between Panaji-Betim-Verem at an interval of every one hour from 6.30 a.m. to 7.30 p.m. with a lunch break from 12.30 p.m. to 1.30 p.m.
The ferry from Panaji to Mormugão used to leave at 5 in the morning and reach Mormugão after touching Verem and Dona Paula at 7 in the morning. On its return journey it used to leave at 10 in the morning. The next trip on the same route used to be in the evening. The fare charged was rupees 1.10 for upper class and 5 annas for lower class.
At present the navigational activities are looked after by the Captain of Ports. These are services run by the River Navigation Department known as the Commercial Department under the overall control of the Captain of Ports.
There were twelve important scheduled routes. The number of passengers travelling on these routes increased from 38.01 lakhs in 1965 to 62.26 lakhs in 1969, but declined to 59.78 lakhs in 1970. The decline in 1970 was due to the construction of the bridge across the Mandovi River which linked Panaji and Mapusa.
Till 1970 statistics there were around 12 main waterways and it shows that the Panaji-Betim-Verem and Panaji-Britona-Ecoshim-Pomburpa had the largest number of passengers. The least used was Panaji-Old Goa with two thousand in 1965 and the service stopped after that. Other routes which were functional were Panaji-Britona-Ecoshim-Pomburpa-Amberem-Calvim with Aldona as the last stop. There was also a launch service from Panaji to Naroa. There was a jetty opposite the Ribandar Hospital from where launches departed to Graçã (Chorão).