Collapse of drain: Reasoning of water table rise hollow

| JUNE 11, 2024, 12:25 AM IST

The State bore the brunt of rain fury on Sunday with large areas inundated, trees uprooted and normal life hit. However, while the rain was coming down hard, major attention was on the Smart City, Panaji and how it would hold up against charges of substandard work. On Monday when the rain took a pause, the inevitable happened and a newly built drain collapsed due to soggy surroundings risking the famed Taad-Maad shrine.

The collapse of the drain is believed to be due to the excavation work undertaken nearby. Imagine Panaji Smart City Development Limited (IPSCDL) states that the collapse is due to the heavy rainfall “which has caused the water table to rise sharply at the site”. It said the sandy soil beneath the drain began caving leading to the sinking of the side drain.

That brings us primarily to the point of responsibilities of not meeting deadlines, and the accountability thereon. The contractor has not been able to finish works even within the extended deadline, and possibly these works, including the ongoing road work at Cauculo Mall, St Inez will go past June. The IPSCDL should have factored in all risks associated with the monsoon because the rising water table in Panaji is a common phenomenon. Now, that sounds like an unreasonable excuse, because the situation is bound to aggravate in the monsoon.

Even if the teams try to contain the damage by deploying pumps to flush out the water, the collapse of the drain has already left a huge dent in the confidence of the common citizens who will now look at the entire project with even more suspicion. These are not encouraging signs, especially when the IPSCDL is under scanner. The quality of work and the competence of the contractors have always been questionable. Work continues because the IPSCDL faces the embarrassment of not meeting the successive timelines it has been setting.

Leaders from the Goa Forward Party and the Aam Aadmi Party have demanded a criminal probe into the incident and alleged corruption while asking for an audit of the works of Smart City. The Goa Forward Party also submitted a complaint to the Chief Secretary alleging shoddy work and negligence by the contractor. The irony is that the chief secretary himself is the board’s chairman.

It is good that two parties have reacted, but overall, there were expectations of a larger political unity against the issue, especially given the torment inflicted upon common citizens. If politicos don’t see regional boundaries when fighting public issues, why was Panaji an exception? Why were Ponjekars left to fend for themselves? Sadly, leaders have shown extraordinary tolerance to a project that has been muddied for over four years over dust pollution, faulty planning, sub-standard work, misuse of funds and corruption charges. It is heartening that even the judges had to step out. 

Lest we forget, Panaji MLA Atanasio Monserrate, while on a recent inspection, had mentioned that the contractor would not be spared for faulty works, even as a chorus emerged from the other side giving a clean chit to the contractor. Besides the works, the smart city journey has been about conflicting thoughts, counter-claims and cover-ups. 

It is time that IPSCDL and those associated with the Smart City work be held accountable. The Panaji MLA must stand up to his word of acting against shoddy work. The chief secretary must speak up, and whether someone likes it or not, there has to be an audit of the entire Smart City project. 

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