Wednesday 17 Jul 2024

GMR in the eye of storm as floods ravage Mopa villages

THE GOAN NETWORK | JULY 10, 2024, 12:38 AM IST


For the past three years, six villages in Pernem, located below the Mopa airport, have faced severe flooding during the monsoons.

This year was no different, as heavy rains on Sunday caused water to rush into houses and inundate local roads, cutting off the villages from the main road.

The affected villages – Ugvem, Varkhand, Nagzar, Kasarvanem, Chandel, and Mopa – have been grappling with the floods that disrupt their lives.

Residents have experienced water entering their homes, and schoolchildren have been unable to attend classes due to impassable roads.

Additionally, local farmers have been unable to cultivate their fields, which remain flooded, rendering their once fertile land unusable.

The construction of the new greenfield Manohar International Airport, developed by GMR Goa International Airport Ltd on the Mopa plateau, is being blamed for the flooding.

Locals claim that the problem started after the airport's construction began.

“While constructing the airport, the developers disturbed the natural flow of water from the plateau. The flow has been diverted, causing water to flood the villages,” said Bhaskar Narolkar, a retired government official from Chandel who advocates for villagers' social issues in Pernem.

Uday Mahale, a resident of Ugvem, echoed this sentiment, stating that previously, water from the Mopa plateau was evenly distributed and did not disturb the villages.

“After constructing the runways, all the water has been channelled in one direction, causing these floods,” Mahale argued.

GMR the developers had assured that they would implement several green initiatives, including constructing rainwater harvesting pits to manage excess water during the rains.

However, Narolkar claimed that the developers have not adhered to these promises.

“The National Green Tribunal directed the developers to install multiple rainwater recharge and harvesting pits, but it seems they have failed to comply with the court’s direction,” he said.

Additionally, Narolkar noted that GMR has not fulfilled its commitment to plant trees around the airport premises.

The farming community has been the hardest hit, with fields filled with excess soil from the plateau, making cultivation impossible.

Cashew plantations have also been washed away in the floods.

“We asked local authorities to remove the mud that has settled in the fields so we could plough them, but no one is listening to our request,” Mahale said.

Kishore Gaonkar, a journalist and resident of Pernem, described the situation as an ecological disaster and called for immediate government intervention.

“The planning for big projects often remains on paper and is far from reality. Before constructing the airport, GMR prepared an environmental impact assessment (EIA) report, as did the State government. But the flooding problem in the villages indicates that something is amiss,” Gaonkar said.

He urged the government to take corrective measures promptly, emphasising that while the clock cannot be turned back, immediate action is necessary to mitigate the villagers' suffering.

Attempts to contact GMR officials were unsuccessful, as they did not respond to calls. Additionally, a questionnaire sent to the relevant official via email and WhatsApp went unanswered.

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