State must grab the new opportunity to develop robust water transport
India’s first concrete floating jetty was inaugurated on the River Mandovi last week by Union Minister of State for Shipping Mansukh Mandaviya. There are plans for installing three more jetties in other parts of the state over the next four months. These floating concrete jetties are expected to revolutionise water transportation in the state and offer an alternative to people who have to face road congestion travelling between home and workplace. It will also offer tourists a mode for adventure trips on waterways to explore Goa. The state had a robust river transportation during the Portuguese rule but was neglected by the government after Liberation. Construction of roads, bridges and increase in the number of road transport vehicles provided people opportunities for using means of personal transportation they could have at their disposal anywhere, anytime, in contrast to the ferries which had a fixed schedule. Though the state authorities have been talking of promoting water transportation for a long time, not much was done. The inauguration of the floating concrete jetty has sparked a new hope. Let us hope the government does not let people down.
Water transportation is cheaper and safer provided it is properly used. Now that the authorities have taken the first step towards promoting water transportation on a large scale they should make a clear roadmap, a clear policy and regulations in order to make a slow but steady progress towards connecting various parts of Goa through water transport. Among the major hurdles the state government faced in the past in developing river transport was obtaining permissions from competent authorities for construction of permanent jetties. Floating concrete jetties are stable, safe and long lasting and can be set up easily and removed or realigned according to the need. Now that an alternative to the problem has been found by way of installing floating concrete jetties, which are eco-friendly as they do not intrude into river or sea bed and can be ordered and installed very quickly without waiting for formal approvals from the authorities concerned, the state government should seize the opportunity and go ahead with its river transportation development plans.
Ports Minister Michael Lobo has promised to grant licences to locals to run ferries from one point to another using the proposed small jetties at the villages situated on the banks of the rivers. The state has already forwarded 30 proposals worth Rs 50 crore to the Centre for constructing small jetties. The proposals are aimed at reviving waterways for public transportation. The government needs to pursue the central government for fast-tracking the clearances. The government must also make sure private operators, who will be licensed to run ferries, adhere strictly to safety norms. No compromises whatsoever should be made with the rules, regulations and safety norms. Without a strict enforcement regime, the private ferries may take liberties that could endanger lives. One major aim of developing water transport is to decongest roads, which also incorporates the aim of reducing the number of casualties in road accidents. These aims could be defeated if private operators are not compelled by an alert monitoring regime to stick to rules and regulations. There should be regular inspections to check the worthiness of the ferries and the adherence to measures to ensure safety of passengers.
People of Goa would be looking up to Chief Minister Pramod Sawant and Ports Minister Michael Lobo to give them a robust water transport. They would expect them to develop an infrastructure including jetties that would enable water transport from and to a large number of points. The people would also hope they give them enough ferries from various points to travel from one part to another without waiting for long hours. Frequency of ferry will be key. Hopefully, there is no opposition to development of water transport. People should see it as a way to reduce pollution caused by automobiles. Goa’s air quality has been deteriorating owing to automobile pollution. The state government should leave no scope for any forces to scuttle the water transport development projects. All the MLAs and sarpanchas have a responsibility to spread positive awareness among people of their constituencies and panchayats, so that they can participate in the realization of the water transport development roadmap.