Photo Credits: Bypass part-2 Margao Package
While construction of the Margao Western National Highway bypass has raised many an eyebrow amongst residents of Benaulim, Nuvem and Seraulim who fear large-scale flooding during monsoons, questions are now being raised as to how the PWD and the contractor will meet the huge requirement of earth for raising an embankment as high as six metres along certain stretches of the near 12-km bypass alignment. Guilherme Almeida has unearthed that PWD has asked the Chief Town Planner to grant hill-cutting permission to extract a whopping 3.5 lakh truckloads of earth for land-filling along the alignment
How many lush green hills in Goa will have to be flattened by the Gujarat-based company to raise an earthen embankment spanning a distance of nearly 12 kilometres to pave way for the construction of the Rs 201 crore Western bypass passing through wet lands and low-lying fields of Verna, Nuvem, Seraulim and Benaulim?
As per PWD, National Highway’s own assessment of the land-filling requirement, a whopping 24 lakh cubic metres of earth equivalent to 3.5 lakh truckloads of mud will be required to raise the earthen embankment for the proposed bypass.
Planning officials in the know say that 24 lakh cubic metres of earth required for land-filling would mean cutting down of minimum three hills. Hence, the moot question remains - from where would the Gujarat-based joint venture company, M/s N G Projects-Tarmat, procure these enormous requirements?
Sources in the know told The Goan that PWD and Planning officials along with representatives of the company have fanned out to many areas of Salcete and in neigbouring Quepem and Mormugao talukas for sourcing of the required earth.
The PWD, NH, which is one of the stakeholders for the construction of the Margao Western National Highway bypass, has identified as many as five plots and hills standing tall in South Goa as borrow areas for sourcing of earth for the bypass project. The villages where hill-cutting is being proposed for the land-filling activity include Loutolim, Davorlim, Deao in Quepem taluka, Verna and Consua in Mormugao.
PWD officials told The Goan that the department has already approached the office of the Chief Town Planner seeking NOC for cutting of hills under section 17-A for the proposed bypass. In fact, PWD, NH, Executive engineer, R Kamat has urged the Chief Town Planner to grant the permissions on an expeditious basis since the bypass is a time-bound project proposed to be completed within a two year period.
“It need not be reiterated that the Margao bypass is the most crucial project, from the point of the Margao traffic congestion, and will go a long way in solving the woes of city traffic, which is presently forced to enter congested city roads. This will reduce traffic congestion inside the city and provide 4-lane highway to ensure traffic safety, fuel savings, travelling time and convenience,” Kamat told the Chief Town Planner.
The Goan understands that the huge requirement of earth is primary required, given the width and length of the proposed bypass. Reveals a PWD official: “Since the bypass is a four-lane highway, land-filing will be carried out at a minimum width of 40 metres. Since the alignment of the bypass is passing through low-lying and wet lands of Nuvem, Seraulim and Benaulim, land-filling will be enormous.”
That’s not all. Take the case of the 10 vehicular underpasses proposed along the alignment. Since the underpasses are required to be built at a height of six metres as per the established norms, the earthen embankment on either side of the underpass will have to be raised at a minimum height of six metres to maintain the gradient, sources in the PWD disclosed, adding that all these will need huge requirement of earth for the land-filling.
MOVING HEAVEN AND EARTH?
- 3.5 lakh truckloads of mud needed to raise earthen embankment for proposed bypass
- PWD has identified five plots and hills for sourcing the mud in areas of Loutolim, Davorlim, Deao in Quepem taluka, Verna and Consua in Mormugao
- It has also asked TCP dept to expeditiously issue NOC for hill-cutting, calling the bypass project 'time-bound'
- Additionally, earth will also be needed for meeting the requirements of the 10 underpasses along the alignment
Inquiries by the Goan have revealed that the local Town and Country Planning office has not yet granted permission for the hill-cutting. However, Senior Town Planner, Margao James Mathew has advised the PWD to source the earth from barren land or from already damaged sites where extraction of earth was carried out earlier. Mathew has made it clear to the PWD that wooded areas and virgin areas should not be considered for extraction of earth as far as possible, with a further advise that the rehabilitation plan in the form of lan-scapping and protection of the remaining part of the property or adjoining property should also be undertaken by the agency.
“Acquired land by the government and its agencies intended for development and acquired road widening area involving cutting of soil, etc, could be preferably considered for sourcing the earth,” Mathew told the PWD.
Loutolim-Salcete Comunidade Loutolim
Davorlim-Salcete Acquired by South Goa Collector
Deao-Quepem POA holder, Vikrant Desai
Verna-Salcete Satish Sawant & Others
Consua-Mormugao 1. Jesus Lume Agnelo Antonio Jose Franciso Mequita
2. Goa Government, PWD, WD VI