Thursday 08 Jun 2023




This may make reading interesting. The vast swathe of low-lying fields, spanning across Seraulim, near the wholesale fish market, extending right up to the Tolleaband water body in neighbouring Benaulim, is considered the flood plains of river Sal, the wetlands of these villages and the water catchment area of neighbouring Margao.

In the over half-a-decade battle for construction of the 2.75 km bypass along these low-lying stretches on stilts, residents of Seraulim, Mungul and Benaulim advanced the plea that building the bypass via filling of land to raise an embankment would displace the rainwater, triggering floods.

None other than a high-level panel headed by former Margao Deputy Collector, Sanjit Rodrigues, now Home Secretary, recommended a re-think around two decades ago on the plea they form Margao's wetlands.

As the PWD, National Highway is racing against time to meet the High Court deadline to complete the 2.75 km balance work on the bypass, a visit along these low-lying fields shows two modes of bypass construction underway – one, a 980-metre stretch on stilts and the remaining stretch via landfilling for the bypass.

Bypass on stilts

A casual look at both sides of the low-lying fields at Mungul during a drive to Colva beach from Margao reveals that concrete columns are dotting the fields between the wholesale fish market at Seraulim and further down towards the Mungul railway bridge to make way for the bypass on stilts.

Reason? Around 980-metre of the total 2.75 km bypass between Seraulim and Mungul is being built on stilts as per the NGT-constituted panel's recommendation. Why the panel recommended only a 980-metre stretch on stilts is not far to seek. The panel concluded that the 980-metre elevated structure would avoid filling up the water body and part diversion of river Sal. The panel further pointed stilts escalate the cost by an additional Rs 70.46 crore, taking the cost of the balance 2.75 km to Rs 218.94 crore as against the tendered project of Rs 148.48 crore via landfilling.

A glance at the minutes of the panel meeting held on February 26, 2021, showed that the members deliberated on all three alternatives and decided to recommend the modified approach.

Bypass via landfilling

A drive down Salcete’s coastal belt to the Varca-Cavelossim beach stretch would reveal a different scenario. Here, tonnes of mud and debris are being dumped at the Tolleaband water body to make way for the bypass on embankments. Reason? The NGT-constituted panel did not recommend stilts, paving the way for the PWD, National Highway to commence landfilling.

Benaulim locals say there’s no convincing reason to reject the demand for stilts. A glance at the minutes of the panel meeting, however, suggests that the panel weighed the cost factor. The panel said it would cost Rs 346.3 crore to construct the entire 2.75 km bypass on stilts. Locals pointed out that it is apparent that by restricting the stilts up to 980 metres, the panel seemed keener on cost-cutting than taking the ground reality into account. Says petitioner before the NGT, Royla Fernandes: “We are happy that the panel has recommended stilts from Seraulim to Mungul at a stretch of 980 metres, but the panel seemed to have overlooked the contentions of the Benaulim locals. The 2.75 km stretch is a contiguous flood plain of river Sal. If the panel recommended stilts on the 980-metre stretch, the bypass passing through Benaulim also needs stilts.”

The contentions raised by villagers do not seem misplaced since the Water Resources Department report on Benaulim flooding in the 2022 monsoons stated that stilt is the only solution to prevent monsoon flooding.

Seraulim locals concerned about flooding if no stilts till Benaulim


Seraulim locals have welcomed the government’s decision to build the bypass on stilts along the 980-metre stretch passing through the village.

They, however, have posed a question to the government and PWD, National Highway – will the stilts solve the flooding issue in Seraulim if the bypass is not on stilts till Benaulim?

At the Seraulim gram sabha, former panchayat member Kevin D’Souza raised apprehensions that flood waters may return and inundate the Seraulim fields if there is waterlogging at Benaulim during the monsoons and no quick drainage. "Hence, it is in the interest of not only Benaulim, but the neighbouring villages that the stilts should be extended right up to Benaulim,” Kevin said.

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