Tuesday 30 May 2023

News Analysed, Opinions Expressed

The Perilous Plight of Pedestrians in Goa


One type of citizen that is everywhere, yet from the government's point of view, nowhere, is the Pedestrian. The government behaves as if pedestrians do not exist on its busiest roads.

The Government of Goa is making a major push in widening and improving roads in the state. This is creditable.

Except, of course, in cases such as the so-called "prestigious" Miramar-Dona Paula Road. Here, a perfectly good road has been dug up and replaced by a third-rate concrete creature that has more cracks and sunken manholes than smooth stretches of road. A colossal waste of the taxpayers' money. All thanks to a slippery contractor that interpreted every contract provision from its own point of view, while the Goa State Infrastructure Development Corporation (GSIDC) conveniently looked away.

But lost somewhere in this headlong rush for development is one type of citizen that is everywhere, yet from the government's point of view, nowhere.

The Pedestrian.

Yes, this government behaves as if pedestrians do not exist on its busiest roads.

All the four traffic signals that are operating in Porvorim at present, effectively regulate the movement of vehicles on the road. Local citizens are extremely thankful to the government and the local MLA that they are there. Otherwise, traffic would be utterly unmanageable in Porvorim.

Sadly, however, not a single one of them has any light setting to enable pedestrians to cross the road safely.

The Public Works Department (PWD) has built a magnificent four lane road from Dona Paula to Bambolim. Its excellence stands in stark contrast to the shambles that is its Miramar-Dona Paula counterpart. However, its pavements are 45cm (18 inches) high, making it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for senior citizens to climb onto the pavement from the road.

This, despite the easy availability of the booklet 'Guidelines for Pedestrian Facilities' by The Indian Roads Congress (IRC) — the Apex Body of Highway Engineers in the country — which sets down the norms for road building in the country. According to the IRC, the kerb height of any pavement should be no more than 15cm (6 inches) from the road surface.

Yet, the height of pavements in Goa's two principal cities of Panaji and Margao can vary from anywhere between 0 cm to over a metre (39 inches) high. This is because the Planning and Development Authorities (PDAs) and the Municipalities have allowed each builder to construct the pavement outside his building to suit the plinth level of the building rather than the safety and convenience of pedestrians. What is worse, they continue to do so to this day.

Often, there are open drains (or broken drain covers) at the points where the pavement intersects with the road. Senior citizens could easily fall into these, or trip over them and break their limbs.

In its frenetic road widening drive, the government has a simple formulation. It covers the shoulders or sides of the highways with asphalt. Now, our highways are tarred from end to end, so there is more space for vehicles to drive on, but absolutely no space for pedestrians to walk on.

Don't our PWD and GSIDC engineers, our planners in the PDAs, our Traffic Police and Transport Dept officials, our bureaucrats and politicians, have any elders in their families? Old people, who cannot dash across highways or busy roads with fast moving vehicles plying on them, have to wait excruciatingly  long — sometimes as much as 20 minutes — to be able to cross one half of a highway. Do they realise this?

Recently, the Chief Minister expressed deep concern about the rising number of fatal vehicular accidents in the state. I wish he (as well as the Minister for Town and Country Planning) would spare a thought for the pedestrians of Goa too.

Just as a start, he could order that the 54 traffic signals recommended for the state are all installed by the end of the year. And they could ensure that each one of them has a provision for pedestrians to safely cross the roads comprising the intersection.

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

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Ashwin Tombat

Ashwin Tombat has been the Editor of Gomantak Times and Herald. Worked as an Associate Editor of national magazine Gentleman in Mumbai, before shifting to Goa. Loves sailing, also participates in Marathons. Has worked as an activist in students's union and trade unions in Maharashtra. Also an artist of Street Theatre during student days.


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