It was year 2011, and one day, as a student heading to the ferry point, I noticed a lone white structure along the road that felt completely out of place. After some questioning, I was informed that it was a foundation stone.
This meant the initiation of something new – two new bridges that would connect the island of Divar to the mainland and the other to its neighbouring Chorao.
A bridge! I didn’t know what to make of it. Commuting daily via ferry boats wasn’t always thrilling but had been an essential part of the journey. Some days, waiting for one in the scorching afternoon heat was annoying.
On other occasions, when services were halted on a foggy winter morning, I’d secretly thanked my luck for that uncalled holiday.
Divadkars weighed the pros and cons of this newly proposed bridge. A few days later, heading to the ferry point, I observed that the stone had been vandalised.
Over the years, the ferry issue and the idea of a bridge have resurfaced time and again as part of development projects promised to Divadkars.
More than a decade later, it’s still among the only issues that have been associated with Divar that was also articulated by the Congress-turned-BJP MLA Rajesh Faldessai at the assembly session.
In fact, in a recent report, Faldessai mentioned that a tentative nod by the chief minister to a bridge linking Divar to Old Goa to be built by GSIDC will solve this long pending issue.
But as an islander, who’s seen the inconvenience caused by the lack of a bridge and the advantage of not having one, I would like to draw attention to issues Divar faces beyond the need for a bridge.
Those in support of the bridge claim they want to move forward with the modern times. But will a bridge solve every infrastructure scarcity Divar faces?
The most basic healthcare services have never been in place on the island. If an emergency occurs, the people of Divar rely on the doctors stationed on the island at specific times. A serious case that requires special equipment can’t be dealt with at the health centre and patients are rushed to hospitals outside the island.
There are only two schools that provide education up to standard ten. After that, every Divadkar wanting to pursue higher studies has no option other than travelling outside the island to avail of courses of their preference. There’s no library for people to visit. Although a mobile library by Bookworm makes an occasional visit.
If the fifteen-minute ferry wait seems long, depending on the buses on the island is a disappointment in the offing. There are only two Kadamba buses, each on different routes.
Hence, those dependent on these buses end up waiting for a minimum of 30 minutes (sometimes more if the bus breaks down and isn’t replaced for the rest of the day) if one bus is missed.
CARE FOR WHAT ALREADY EXISTS
Entering the island from the Sao Pedro route, a little structure that’s meant to be a bus stop poses a danger to all those under its cover. Cracked and chipping, the structure is on the verge of collapsing.
Every taxpayer’s money goes into projects meant to benefit the community at large. But the poorly built and ill-maintained hall at the Sao Matias Panchayat just shows that sometimes that’s never the intention.
Today Divar has been an ideal destination for cycle rides and heritage walks but has also become a great place for cleanliness drives. Thanks to all the people who practice their shot put skills daily, which has allowed garbage to reach the fields.
The same Khazans that were once cultivated in full swing and sustained the Divadkars are now becoming dumping grounds. Although there have been efforts for monthly waste collection by the two panchayats and a garbage tax imposition, waste management remains a significant issue to be tackled.
Therefore, with so many misses, is the bridge a priority for Divadkars?
Probably even back then there were answers as to “why Divar needed a bridge”. With no other route to travel to and from the island, a bridge would be an easy and faster access, especially during emergencies and fatalities. Then, what made them decide otherwise?
Maybe the realisation that the bridge may not “bridge every gap” but only makes matters worse with the land required for the same meaning destruction of the Khazan lands, mangroves and the increased inflow of criminal activities on the island.
The islanders will have to make that choice again. But, until then, maybe pondering on other issues will allow for genuine development in Divar.