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A Bumpy Ride

The government has recently announced construction of a third Mandovi bridge with two flyovers on either side. This state-of-the-art project is expected to ease traffic congestion mostly witnessed at peak hours. However, before embarking upon such grandiose plans, it would be prudent to upgrade the level of the existing road infrastructure in the state on a priority basis and ensure its timely maintenance. This is important for tourism and industry, writes Binayak Datta
I had a particularly nasty fall last year – and had to land up with an extensive surgery. On one of my trips to the Surgeon at Porvorim, I was a bit amused that the chauffeur chose to take the second Mandovi bridge instead of the one closer by. Why that one? – I enquired of him.
Sir – the other one is bumpy – I’m afraid it will hurt your loose bones up your elbows!!
That’s the road surface of one of the prized bridges at North Goa!! Built in the late 80’s this bridge is one of our icons today!
Like in mostly all of our projects – we take time in building, but how much for the planning at the front and maintenance at the back is mostly unknown!!
What you therefore get is more often – what you did not want – but certainly what you deserved!!
There is an excellent new state of the art bridge – the third on the Mandovi now coming up!
Whilst I am sure studies have been done – public hearings held (though not essentially a requirement), different models examined, funds tied up, discussions held in the Assembly – I am also sure, however, of one thing – the foundation plaque has been laid!! – for this a neat Rs 355 crore plus another Rs 50 crore for 2 sets of flyovers on either side – coming up tax payers’ pockets!! It’s also most heartening to note that – work starts on the September 15 and is over in 20 months!
Whilst I wish this bolt-from-the-blue-gift to Goa – all its success I can’t resist feeling a wee bit smug – public memory is short!!
We were told couple of years back a “six lane Zuari bridge – was to be constructed on a priority basis”. By end March 2012 again we were informed …”a new six lane bridge across Zuari will be completed within 36 months…” well – 28 months are already over!!
Goa needs tourism! Goa needs industry! Goa needs growth – therefore Goa will need proper infrastructure for all of these!!
Goa needs good roads – well built – wide and navigable!! – Important both from tourism and industry angles.
Just for a moment imagine there is an international cruise liner at the new passenger terminal at the Mormugao Port the tourists have a day at Goa…….imagine the roads the huge Volvo coaches have to take thru either the Vasco town or the Baina beach and then climb Mangor and past the Gurduara road to access the highway or thru the market at the Vasco town!
Safety is one another important agenda – here – all the hazardous industrial inputs imported thru the port have to pass thru the most congested parts of Vasco town and up and down the Vadem hills.
The four laning project of the highway NH17a needs mention here. It is well known how pitiably the project got bogged down in narrow highly localised interests, in tussles of ego and finally in protracted litigations –the ball is in our courts both of the NHAI and of the state to see that the work both of the 2.5 km stretch from the Varunapuri to berth no 9 MPT is completed now – with publication of target time.
I recollect having seen several notifications on UK Streets reading…” this stretch from….to……will remain closed to public from….till………because of …..This work will be complete on………..”!!!
With the winds of change can we now approach such a time bound way of public work yet be in a vibrant democracy??
My concern is on the fact that the compounded annual growth rates (CAGR) 2003 to 2008 for state highways in our country, Goa shows no growth at all compared to:
Karnataka 16.1%
Mizoram 12.3%
Kerala 3.3%
Bihar 9.6%
All India 2.7%
In the field of rural roads Goa grew by a paltry of 0.49 per cent against:
Andhra 11.9%
Bihar 9.8%
Kerala 9.1%
Karnataka 5.9%
All India 4.5%
Compare this with the number of live vehicles increasing in Goa by around 10 per cent each year!
Also please examine: Kerala, Karnataka and Maharashtra have ratios of state highways (not total roadways) to total area 10.7 per cent; 10.8 per cent and 10.9 per cent respectively where ours is only 7.5 per cent.
I think we have to improve – not only in terms of quantities – but also in terms of quality.
We have to build straight highways say Ponda to the Verna junction, better quality of bypasses for say Margaon, Quepem, Mollem, Canacona, Balli, etc.
The Santacruz and Talegaon bypasses were indeed mentioned in the Budget documents for 2012-13 – it would be a good idea for us to see these projects are completed fast.
The quality of the state highways – some of them are despicable! For example the Margao – Ponda highway – an all important highway connecting the South and the East – the Road surface at places is pathetic!
Some of the highway stretches are just excellent …only you have to be a rated astrologer-cum-excavator – to foretell where the thrill exactly lies – speed restrictors and “bumps” without colours and warning signage….lie sinisterly ensnared every now and then out to break your back and your dear vehicle completely!!
I need not remind you of the innumerable turtle turnings on the highways at Goa – sometimes it was a caustic soda tanker, sometimes a diesel carrier and so on!
Most state highways are narrow with the shoulders on both sides an adventurous 1 foot below the road surface! – and you have to be a trained tight-ropewalker to keep on the road surface when a wide bodied truck crosses you.
There are a good number of bottlenecks as well eg the Khandepar bridge on the NH4A and the Usgaon Bridge on the Tisk to Sanquelim State Road.
Roads inside most of the Industrial estates need drastic improvements as well to attract prospective investors.
Mining roads need specific focus – in terms of reduction of pollution levels, reduction of accidents and highway snarls!
I think it’s a good time to attend to these roads may be on PPP Projects – (or with prospective lease owners) since the traffics are lesser now.
We had been promised the following bridges in February 2012:
Camurlim – Tuem
Chodan – Pomburpa
Calvim – Corona
Keri – Teracol
Chorao – Ribander
Kumbarjua – Gawandali
Talpane, Galgibaga and Borim
In March 2012 the following were promised:
Madkai to Neura
Arpora to Calangute
Virdi to Amona
The work was to start during 2012-13.
But even before all of this – the plights of the Zuari and Borim Bridges are well-known. So is the plight of the narrow Bailey Bridge on the Talpona – important for tourism.
Shabby maintenance is evident even on recent constructions eg the Poira Bridge, the Corjuem Bridge and the Calvim Bridge.
I suppose an update on these bridges and the too-be-bridges would do immense good for industry and tourism plannings in Goa!
Both on the Mollem Ghat approach on NH4A and the Bali Approach NH17 – we have left ourselves to the mercy of the geography. Apart from the negotiating time taken – heavy articulated vehicles find it difficult (most often impossible) to pass. It would be a worthwhile project to study and implement navigability on these stretches – this would enhance immensely the Idea of a logistic hub at Goa.
Low end tourism and domestic tourism requires an efficient public transportation system. I am aware some little thing has in fact been done thru the JNNURM schemes but it is too less and too unstructured.
Whereas I understood from the Economic Survey this year that we are making all out efforts to provide safe integrated proactive and innovative transport systems for the people of Goa – 4 months down the line an update could be good.
I can see for example an unruly eye soar that greets all visitors on entry to Panaji – the Bus Stand!! Right at the foot of the bridge. The Kadamba stands at Panaji, Vasco and Margao are no better. Thickly crowded, unsystematic and hurdlesome!
Although we have said, we do have a well-developed road network of 10,000 km including 269 km of national highways widening of these are underway – I think for better assurance a time scale could do well to planners.
I thought if instead of high-flown showcases – like the famed “Sea Link Project” of yore!! Or the current cable stayed behemoth of a bridge, if we stick to and prioritise on projects affecting and improving lives of our citizens and making Goa more attractive a destination for tourism and investments – I think that’s what we should be looking at more!
I recommend the following prioritisations:
Immediate widening of all state highways and levelling their shoulders
Direct corridors – Verna to Ponda and say Colvale to Canacona (think of the Hyderabad highway from the airport to the city)
Parking levels at Panaji, Vasco and Margao
Congestion toll at Panaji
Road map for public transport system like mostly all other state capitals
The second Zuari Bridge
Complete repairs of the Borim bridge since these 2 are arterial for the purposes of Goa
Maintenance of the existing facilities
Goa has as we know immense potentials for knowledge based new age Industry, in Education and in Health Care and Pharma. It has promises in Entertainment and Logistics – but the basic requirement in all of these is the infrastructure we are going to offer!
This needs willingness, prioritisation and a time bound action program.
(The author is a chartered accountant and corporate consultant and is retd CFO and vice president, Zuari Group Goa)

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