Rain inflicts pain: Lessons not learnt from past floods

| JULY 08, 2024, 11:34 PM IST

Persistent rainfall over the past few days has left several places water-logged as expected. Rivers have been in full spate and the swell of waters across villages has submerged houses, temples and other low-lying areas. A brief cyclonic wind over Cortalim resulted in nearly 100 trees coming down within a few minutes. The property damage was humongous even as uncertainty remained over the weather since an orange alert was issued on Monday.

Flooding is not new to Goa since the State has witnessed worse deluges in past years. What is however intriguing is the fact that the modern infrastructure which has been showcased as the face of development has been crumbling. The highway protection wall has collapsed in Dhargal -- twice in that area in two weeks, the renovated Kala Academy which has been the centre of attention lately, saw water making its way into the premises; the new High Court building has been leaking and the newly built National Highways were water-logged. These are major areas of concern that are adding to Goa's cup of woes. The rains have not only shown unpreparedness but have also exposed faulty planning and substandard work. The fault lines are showing.

Secondly, did we expect lesser 'rain pain' this time? Yes, we did, for the promise of better Disaster Management plans. Chief Minister Pramod Sawant announced in May that The Goa State Disaster Management Authority has been holding regular capacity-building training programmes to sharpen the skills of first responders. He spoke of an Incident Response System and Local Contingency Plan for mass rescue operations. It was said that there is a greater engagement of departments and resources with even locals trained in attending to rescues. It was announced that over 400 locals were being imparted training.

So when Goa was being pounded on Sunday with trees coming down, walls and houses collapsing and water inundating vast portions of the landscape, there was an expectation of a better collaboration of teams on the ground. The police and the firemen who have always been brave warriors in times of distress, continued to do due diligence with not much support from the disaster management teams.

Thirdly, in an interesting development, around 150 trekkers were rescued from a waterfall at Pali in Valpoi after a 4-hour-long operation. The surprising part is that despite a red alert weather warning being issued, these trekkers were allowed to proceed. Given the weather warning, an immediate advisory should have been released barring visitors to all waterfalls and water bodies. Seamless and swift communication and execution are key to any quick response plans.

Fourthly, lessons from the past have not been learnt. Goa has been witnessing floods, and water logging and every successive monsoon fury has left behind a trail of destruction. However, years down the line, the State continues to face the same agonising situations, whether it is the flooding in Panaji, the Guirim road, Bicholim, Bastora, the manholes that overflow with water in Margao or the Paroda bridge that sinks year after year. The State machinery continues to battle the same set of problems in what is perceived as a state of helplessness.

Flooding is common across the world, and one understands it can be worse in areas which are undergoing development. It is imperative that people-oriented planning, development and quality controls go hand in hand otherwise there could be a heavy price to pay where common citizens are the victims. In such times, no disaster management plans will help. It's time to introspect.

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