Nandkumar M Kamat
During summer, I am deliberately writing this article after traveling in much of north Goa, Panaji and suburbs and witnessing the various developmental, road widening and landscape alteration works.
This year during monsoon Goa would experience unprecedented floods again. For the first time, area from Cujira ward of Santa Cruz, Ubo Dando, Bondir, central area of Taleigao, low lying areas of Panaji, especially the D B Bandodkar road, area around Khareband and Comba, Margao and Mapusa bus stand area would see record flooding.
One need not be a hydraulics engineer to see the impacts of hectic ground raising activity at Panaji Gymkhana on monsoon drainage. The Gymkhana perimeter wall would act as a barrier preventing the passage of rainwater draining from D B Bandodkar road. From Mahavir children’s park to Bal Bhavan there is no provision of any drainage system discharging rainwater in the Mandovi river.
The Gymkhana ground was almost at sea level and now it is being raised thus the old capacitance of storm water percolation due to favorable gradient benefiting gravity flow towards river would be lost unless there is a new adequate open drainage system to receive the rainwater with large outfall in river. At present even the existing rainwater outlets on D B Bandodkar road have been choked up.
Turning to the hectic road widening activity of Bambolim bypass one can see it is going to be a major environmental disaster because this is a low lying area with old drainage system comprising rivulets discharging in Mandovi estuary near Patto. From the tip of Bondir ward to Ubo Dando ward unprecedented stagnation of water and flooding would occur during this monsoon. The remaining part of once pristine Merces Cujira reservoir may be able to store some rainwater but it could exceed its capacity and flood the main road.
At Merces- Santa Cruz market road intersection it is a messy situation endangering the lives of the people because a storm water draining box culvert was built right over the PWD drinking water mains, a large water pipeline so the dangerous sewage mixed in rainwater would seep in and enter the drinking water supply to Santa Cruz and Merces thus making people suffer from waterborne infections. Massive corruption and malpractices can be seen in permitting commercial establishments built close to or right over this PWD water pipeline.
The pollution control board or PWD has not bothered to check whether a vehicle washing station on lake embankment is directly lifting water by breaking the water mains and how the untreated effluents are permitted to be released in khazans. This whole stretch of road passing over the Merces lake embankment area is under the communidade which needs to offer an explanation how the business establishments were permitted to come up on PWD drinking water mains and in age old free setback area of a narrow road.
Without greasing the palms of some influential people this reckless development would not have been possible. Village panchayat of Merces is digging the ecological grave of the full area and politicians of all shades and colours are eyeing the real estate that they would create by destroying the low lying uncultivated khazan lands. The work for widening the KTC Panaji to Bambolim bypass spells doom for ancient Calapur village which is rapidly choking up all the cross drainages in Saint Augustine ward, Roulo bandh and Aradi bandh area.
The Santa Cruz village panchayat and NGPDA, the CTP and health and environment departments would be answerable when Calapur-Santa Cruz experiences massive floods and people fall sick. It is only because of corruption and malpractices that these floods and epidemics would be created. These are not natural but manmade calamities. The collectors and mamlatdars would be busy with elections during the next three months when more destructive activities would be carried out. Ten trucks of soil was recently dumped in the low lying paddy field close to Madonna pharmacy, Santa Cruz to choke up old cross drainage from Ubo dando to Roulo bandh below the road.
This soil would be leveled, and shops would be put there in coming weeks. Despite my repeated appeals to revenue minister no action has been taken against proliferation of shops in low lying tenanted khazan areas from four pillars to Bondir football ground thus clearly exposing corruption at all levels. The industries department and zonal agriculture officers alongwith talathis and mamlatdars need to ask village panchayats all over Goa how they permit cement grill manufacturing industries without proper inspection and licensing procedures. Has anyone noticed how the cement grill, garden pots, balustrade, granite slab production industries have taken over the setback areas of roads and highways all over Goa?
Are these sites for such industrial activities? Who permitted these and who gets paid for this? Has PWD checked whether they steal water and use it free? Has electricity department checked whether they use metered and licensed power supply? Has agriculture minister checked whether plant nurseries near roads and highways have the required licenses under nurseries act? The PWD minister needs to explain alongwith his officers in field the acts of serious violations of Goa Daman, Diu Highways act, 1974 and rules especially sections 7, 9, 12, 21, 23, 49, 53, 58.
A private car showroom on slope of Bambolim has violated all setback rules for village roads. They built a massive concrete wall abutting the PWD road in a single night and allegedly got away with it thanks to cooperative “spirit” of Santa Cruz panchayat and NGPDA, TCP, PWD, traffic police and talathi. Panaji is doomed during this monsoon. It gets 22 billion litres of rainwater per year but has no adequate drainage to discharge it to the river. Now Santa Cruz and Merces would join Panaji as flooding hotspots.
The high court is seized with destructive encroachments in eco-sensitive khazan lands in Merces Chimbel low lying floodplain of Mandovi estuary. We see eco-warriors fallen silent about the above issues and forthcoming flooding. The irony of activism is the lovers of a few coconut trees at Guirim were missing in action when more than hundred giant rain trees along Bambolim bypass were slaughtered. You feel pity for Guirim coconut trees which are now buried and withering. Such selective activism only helps to divert public attention from more serious issues like manmade urban flooding. CCP needs to urgently study impact of the Panaji Gymkhana development on DB Bandodkar road drainage.