GOA’S vehicle population is now almost equal to its human population. Soon there would be one vehicle per person. The state has witnessed a vehicle population explosion in the past three decades. According to the transport department, on an average 200 new vehicles are registered every day in the state, of which around 160 are two-wheelers. The number rises by 40 per cent during the festive seasons. The state’s vehicle population was a mere 9,000 at the time of Liberation against a total population of around 5.9 lakh. The number of vehicles has risen to a whopping 14.30 lakh as per the latest data provided by the transport department. There are also a large number of vehicles which Goans have registered in other states to evade payment of registration fees and which are now plying on the state’s roads. According to the available statistics, the number of vehicles per lakh of people was a mere 7,876 in 1987; it grew by leaps and bounds to 73,281 in 2016-17. The vehicle population has more than doubled in the last decade and the number is likely to go up further in the years ahead. The number of registered vehicles in the state stood at 6.59 lakh in 2008. The state’s population as per the 2011 census was 14.58 lakh.
According to the Road Transport yearbook 2011-12, Goa topped the list of states with highest number of vehicles at 476 for every 1,000 people. Goa was followed by Tamil Nadu (257) and Gujarat (241). The least number of vehicles per 1,000 people in the country was recorded in Bihar (31) and West Bengal (43). Two wheelers account for 72 per cent of the vehicles in the state followed by cars. According to the car sales data for 2016-17, Goa recorded 47 per cent increase, coming second only after Kerala which recorded 68 per cent increase. The huge increase in the number of vehicles has led to massive traffic management issues in most parts of the state, besides contributing to increase in pollution levels. The authorities find themselves at odds in dealing with increasing number of traffic violations.
A study conducted by the Goa State Pollution Control Board has revealed that there was consistent rise in air pollution levels largely owing to automobile emissions. The gases emitted by vehicles could add to the problems of those already suffering from breathing problems. Though the air quality may not have reached dangerous levels, there is possibility of Goans falling victim to air pollution, unless steps are taken to control the vehicle population and the emissions from them. The huge rise in vehicular population has led to increase in the number of accidents and deaths. The state has been consistently witnessing more than 300 deaths per year for the last several years, which is alarming. The accidents and deaths have been attributed to unsafe driving, poor road infrastructure and poor quality public transportation which led to the rise of vehicle population.
Owning a vehicle in the past was considered a luxury. People travelled mostly by public transport. But the growth in the number of commuters, coupled with an erratic public transport system, made personal vehicle a necessity. Easy availability of loans prompted people to buy their own vehicles. While the number of vehicles has been increasing, development of roads did not keep pace with it, except for some widening here, some bypass there. The underdevelopment of infrastructure shows poor planning by a government that should have anticipated the phenomenal rise in the number of vehicles with the globalization bringing all the world’s car companies to India and the people’s income rising with economic growth. The vehicular growth has not been complimented by parking facilities either. Motorists are using footpaths, road sides and every other available public space to park their vehicles, leading to congestion, slow movement of traffic and road rage. The building and broadening of roads for smooth movement of traffic is progressing very slowly. Unless the road development work picks up pace there are going to be more traffic congestions and more accidents and more fights between vehicle owners. The problems caused by vehicular explosion could become unmanageable in the years ahead. Singapore never faced vehicle explosion because buying of cars was not allowed. A limited number of cars were auctioned by the government every year. This is something that a democratic government like India cannot do. But what we can do is follow the Singapore and Hong Kong examples and make public transport extremely attractive, affordable, accessible and comfortable to the people. Excellent public transport alone can help reduce the number of private vehicles bought every year and driven on roads.