The drains of capital city Panaji are going from bad to worse, says citizen Stephen Dias of Dona Paula, who is a retired NIO scientist (A1 Instrumentation) and keen social worker. He wants to know if anyone is going to do anything about the drains of Panaji to spare citizens from tragic accidents which will take place when the monsoon arrives in a few months?
By Stephen Dias
THE CCP always claims that they have done all required pre-monsoon work on drains in Panaji to prevent flooding and water logging. It is top priority work! However, year after year, they are proved wrong and we are getting used to witnessing how water accumulates on roads and streets and the overflowing storm gutters are proof of either lack of action or incompetence.
Pedestrians are the worst affected. Forget floods, even a light rain is a disaster for them. Vehicles, especially buses, while travelling up and down water-logged Miramar and Campal roads, splash pedestrians and two- wheeler drivers without mercy. Two wheelers face the bigger problem – they zig-zag to avoid water splashing and this results in accidents and sometimes serious casualties.
We have been seeing a colossal amount of environmental degradation in Goa over recent years by way of rampant destruction of hills, fragmentation of pristine landscapes through ruthless chopping of trees and by not even sparing the low-lying fields — by pouring concrete in them. This is the impact of criminal interference in Goa’s age old natural ecosystem.
We may not forget the casinos which obstruct the natural movement of river Mandovi and sand and this causes major displacement of water flow in the riverine capital city. Nature’s fury cannot be averted as the rain usually plays havoc with an incompetent administration’s pathetic attempts of preparing for the monsoon.
City MLA Babush Monserratte always gives solemn assurances to the Panaji citizens, assuring them that this time the city will not face water logging as he has focussed on cleaning all gutters and especially those of Campal and Miramar. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done.
THE traditional drainage system, water ways, and outlets for natural flow of rainwater are choked all over with no functional drainage system well-maintained by the authorities of the corporation of the city of Panaji. We residents witnessed how Goan communities built over centuries the time-tested strategies designed to prevent flooding but these have deteriorated every year for want of maintenance.
I REMEMBER the planning of drainage outlets during my younger days because of which we had no major flooding in the streets of Panjim. Of course credit is also due to the efficient maintenance by the Portuguese PWD authorities. I remember where some major storm drain inlets were located. One was near Umesh Keni petrol pump in Portais, another was at Ninho Infantil, Fontainhas, Custom House, Miramar, near Panjim market, Campal, Aivao market and other areas.These storm water drains were periodically cleaned and there was no blockage at all which made for safe travelling on roads. But now, all these drains are not only blocked but the documentation existing in the CCP and PWD archives have gone for a toss. Nobody knows or cares if the records are available or not.
Every year the deterioration reaches an ever new peak since the roads are full of potholes and chambers not well aligned, not even levelled by PWD engineers. Tenders do not specify such aspects for the contractor to execute the work and mostly supervision is inadequate or missing altogether. See how the drain covers/slabs are not intelligently designed and all over Panaji we see these ghastly different types of covers of different sizes and thicknesses. They are not uniform. The CCP and PWD workers cannot lift these drain enclosures as they are heavy and no lifting vehicles/gadgets have been given to them.
The workers backs can be injured if they continue to work with such heavy load jobs. A new concept should be introduced — uniform design for efficiency in terms of replacement and cost, strong enough to last, less weight and less thickness to be easily handled. I recently saw a close-to-ideal design in use by the Corporation of the City of Panaji or CCP. Some improvement in terms of weight and thickness would be preferable. One benefit would be that tourists or anti-social elements could not be able to shove bottles and other garbage into the drains with such covers!
THE CCP carries out pre-monsoon work by trial and error method and is hampered partially also because of the ad hoc constructions coming up all over the city. Taking this into consideration the drains need to be cleared much before the arrival of the monsoon in Goa. The problem lies with the government as funds are always approved at the last moment.
Hence, the jobs entrusted to the contractor are delayed. I cannot blame the contractors or charge them with not trying. I recently saw them attempting to clean a gutter at Panaji market. The fleet of workers and engineers struggled to remove sand and mud from the gutter and load it into a truck. When questioned by me they said nothing could be done in terms of prevention because sand keeps entering from the Mandovi shore side with the pressure of waves; thus, the drains gets choked again and again.
I remember such an exercise of laying such a drainage pipeline at Zuari Agro Chemicals more than 40 years ago. We in NIO had done a survey for them and the pipeline was installed. From that time onwards no such complaints were received from locals. Also I remember seabed surveys by NIO senior scientists (geological and geophysical) Dr M Veerayya and Faustinho Almeida, along with our instrumentation team, at various places in India, including at a prominent place in Karwar (Sea Bird Project) where there was much sand accumulation. This was more than 25 years back.
Nowadays, there must be even more advanced techniques available. If we cannot use the gift of the past and maintain our system that was in existence, at the very least we have to work towards using the best of modern methods and technologies.
In Nagpur, in the first of its kind natural drain cleaning treatment using in-situ process, our National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (CSIR – NEERI) attempted a unique cleaning treatment process with the help of a combination of technologies which will give impetus to all kinds of drain treatments, including the clearing of big and small nullah. The institute has put the technology on display by treating over 200 meters of drain on its diamond jubilee foundation celebration at its headquarters.
Goan authorities could well discuss, use and set up this technology in Goa with NEERI, in order to clean not only drains, but nullah and creeks like St Inez to give a cleaner look to Panaji, prevent flooding, provide hygienic surroundings, and abate the menace of mosquito breeding.
It is in the hands of our government to reach out to such experts to put better measures in place. Our nature is kicking us back as most scientists say. If those in power do not take urgent corrective, well-planned and sustainable measures to prevent flooding, our capital city is truly sunk or will continue to sink till doomsday! Wake up, wake up.