PWD Minister Ramakrishna Dhavalikar’s plan to stop movement of vehicles on the 3.5-km stretch between the Cortalim circle and the Sharayu Toyota showroom at Verna and divert it via the Chicalim junction has aroused fears in the minds of people who travel daily or often between Panaji and Margao. Fears are natural as the diversion is not for a few hours, a day or two days, but for over a year. Dhavalikar says the diversion is absolutely unavoidable for placing girders on pillars of the bridge under construction. The diversion of traffic would add 20 kilometres to the journey time for people travelling between Panaji and Margao. Their travel time would be longer as there will be congestion. Several thousand vehicles ply on the Panaji-Margao road every day: besides more travel distance and time there would be more chances of mishaps as the diversion road on NH17B is accident prone. Any accident would lead to closure of road causing havoc for the travellers. Besides, the work on the overbridge at the airport is going on which could also come in the way of smooth flow of traffic. The diversion would be a torture for residents and visiting air travellers. The woes of people would be compounded during the monsoon season.
Rather than forcing a long detour through congestion the state government should first build a temporary wide road parallel to or looping round the stretch of road sought to be closed. The PWD Minister knew well before that the traffic would have to be diverted along the stretch. What was he doing? Just as Health Minister Vishwajit Rane does not know how to help provide Goans safe fish, Dhavalikar does not know how to help provide Goans smooth traffic movement. They both seem to think that Goans have infinite patience to silently bear the worst of calamities created by ministers.
The travel time between Panaji and Margao and between Panaji and Vasco has increased from less than half-hour to an hour in the last two decades. With the calamity created by Dhavalikar the time taken might be one and a half hours, two hours, three, four, five hours, nobody can be certain. Students will miss classes. Employees will reach their office late. Work in government departments will suffer. Businesses will suffer. People will miss flights.
People have been suffering for close to two years owing to the never-ending work on road widening and bridge construction between Panaji and Margao. To think that their suffering is not going to end for another two years is scary. Travellers have gone through chaos and congestion for far too long, with dust pollution adding to the problems of travellers suffering from lung diseases. While diverting the traffic in the past the authorities would often fail to ensure that motorable roads were constructed. It was only after agitations that roads were repaired and the traffic flow streamlined, but that has proved short-lived.
Is it necessary to make travellers suffer a long detour? Construction should not mean obstruction. People cannot be made to suffer in the present for the sake of enjoying good roads and bridges in the future. They should not be made to suffer at any time. Worldwide it is a practice to construct alternative roads to divert the traffic and minimise the difficulties faced by the people before closing any stretch of road for vehicular movement. Why cannot Dhavalikar do it now, even though he should have done it months ago?
The diversion is sought to be done on account of public safety as heavy machinery would be deployed for completion of work and any mishap could lead to compromising the safety. If there is a parallel or loop road, there would be no risks from the machinery. Though there are internal roads along the route they are too narrow to facilitate smooth flow of the size of traffic along the Panaji-Margao route. These narrow internal roads should be widened as an alternative route to ease the flow of traffic.
The diversion was to be done immediately after a meeting of the officials was held about a fortnight ago but was deferred because of Christmas and New Year festivities. True, the construction of 26 metre-wide six-lane road would help in smooth flow of traffic in days ahead, but it cannot be allowed to disturb and dislocate the normal business of government and private businesses and educational institutions. People needing emergency care might not be able to bear the long delay through congestion. One year is too long a time to keep a road closed. The closure of road should be ordered only after satisfactory alternative arrangements for traffic movement have been made.