LAST week, heavy rains caused landslides, inundation of roads and low-level houses and uprooting of trees, bringing misery to people. Luckily there has been no loss of life. But they disrupted normal life. They continue to damage private properties and standing crops and roads. The gross failures of the government and civic and panchayat authorities to put preventive measures in place were apparent. People’s misery showed that if there is heavy rainfall accompanied by strong winds there is no protection from flooding or accidents, whether people stay indoors or are on the roads. Panaji, the capital city of the state which is being developed as a smart city, succumbed to just one day of heavy rain, with homes in some parts flooded and waterlogging at several places. The tall claims of the authorities of the Corporation of the City of Panaji about preparedness for monsoon were exposed.
Though the authorities claim they start pre-monsoon works as early as January of each year, they continue till the rains hit the state and in most cases they are not completed. The problems are complicated by the authorities who allow digging of roads late in summer, despite official prohibition coming into effect from May 15 of each year. The patch or repair works carried out by the agencies undertaking laying of pipelines, cables, etc are sub-standard, with the patches getting washed away with the first rain and the roads sinking at those spots. The flooding in many areas and washing away of roads have exposed the inefficiency of the government and local self-governing bodies and how casually they undertake the essential works to overcome problems anticipated during monsoon season. It is clear that pre-monsoon works were carried out haphazardly and crores spent on those works have largely been a waste. This is not the first year people have been let down by the government and local bodies. The problems have been continuing year after year and there is no accountability fixed for those who carry out questionable and shoddy pre-monsoon works. Will the authorities carry out an audit of the works and fix responsibility for lapses this time?
The state is witnessing a spate of developmental activities including construction of six-lane National Highway 17. However, despite awareness that the state receives heavy rainfall the agencies which are executing the works failed to take steps to provide for proper drainage, which was one of the reasons for flooding. The natural drains that existed all these years and those constructed by the government appear to have been dismantled or filled with silt that has not been removed leading to flooding. Despite the awareness that the road leading to Dona Paula from Miramar and the road near the Sports Authority of Goa ground at Campal get flooded during monsoons nothing appears to have been done by the authorities to mitigate the problem and misery to people. Parts of the road from St Inez to Altinho have been totally washed away, making it a potential death trap during rains and by night. Why cannot the public works department and the CCP authorities implement proper plans to solve the problems that have been continuing for years together? Are they waiting for a major tragedy to occur to get their acts together and then start the process to alleviate the problems faced by the people?
This might not be the last time the concerned government departments and local bodies were found wanting in carrying out their mandated pre-monsoon works, unless the matter receives the attention of the government at the highest level. It is clear that with various agencies engaged in pre-monsoon works, none of them is willing to accept the blame. All of them are saying they did their pre-monsoon works perfectly! Then what went wrong? With no accountability, they get away with their false claims. No punitive action is taken by the government against any of the agencies even if they have done their works poorly. It might need the citizens to mobilise themselves to stop the waste of taxpayers’ money on double expenditure on pre-monsoon and post-monsoon works. Some of the drains constructed have been buried under the rubble of developmental works and silt. Though development is an ongoing process, the authorities need to ensure that it is carried out as per plan and does not choke the drainage system. The government must set up a system for closely overseeing pre-monsoon works to maintain smooth drainage of rainwater and also for imposing penalties on the agencies and officers who fail to do the works effectively. The government should also make its disaster response system broader, quicker and more effective.