The sinking feeling in Goa plunges further

There is a weather warning system in Goa, but can the alerts come in advance so that the people are prepared for the disruptions?
WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE: Back in the day, while the fury of the monsoons was expected in Goa, inundation of roads was not.
WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE: Back in the day, while the fury of the monsoons was expected in Goa, inundation of roads was not.Photo: Rohan Fernandes

A wet spell of a few days in the month of July is normal in Goa. It is the wettest month of the year. In our childhood, and that would be in the 1970s and 1980s, there was no red alert or orange alert or yellow alert that warned of rain.

The only warning we heard was to the fishermen that was announced over the radio and reported in the newspapers.

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July meant rain, so whether it had rained the previous day, whether it had thundered the entire night, whether the grey skies when we were woken up were pouring with rain, whether the trees were bending down with the wind, it didn’t matter.

The farmer went to the field, we went to school, our parents went to work.

Life went on as normal and no school holiday was announced. Well, even if the government had declared a holiday, most students would have turned up to school as communications were rudimentary.

Schools themselves would have opened up for the day, unaware of the declared holiday.

July meant rain, so whether it had rained the previous day, whether it had thundered the entire night, whether the grey skies when we were woken up were pouring with rain, whether the trees were bending down with the wind, it didn’t matter. The farmer went to the field, we went to school, our parents went to work.

The flooded roads were not an impediment. The dripping umbrellas weren’t either. Wading through the water was, for us as children, more fun and swinging the umbrella sideways to protect oneself from the splash of water from a passing vehicle was a cause of merriment and not irritation.

If in current times, were it not to rain in such a manner, then it would be a deviation from the normal. So, when it rained last weekend and early this week, it was hardly surprising.

It was also to be expected that the wind and the rains would bring down a few trees and that there would be waterlogging in certain areas.

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What wasn’t expected was roads, that otherwise were free of flooding, completely inundated, leaking roofs of government buildings like the Kala Academy, recently-constructed retaining walls collapsing onto the roads, villages that didn’t otherwise suffer inundation being flooded. Why then, did all of this happen?

Should we be blaming it all on the weather or have the developments, that have taken place in recent years, also had a role to play in the flooding.

Take for instance at the villages surrounding the Mopa plateau, where the new airport has started functioning. Reports are that some were inundated, and locals claim that it is the felling of trees for the airport that led to the floods.

What wasn’t expected was roads, that otherwise were free of flooding, completely inundated, leaking roofs of government buildings like the Kala Academy, recently-constructed retaining walls collapsing onto the roads, villages that didn’t otherwise suffer inundation being flooded. Why then, did all of this happen?

There is no confirmation of this, well not yet, but the reasoning of the villagers sounds reasonable.

It would be interesting to go back to the Environment Impact Assessment report of the Mopa airport and read these sentences: ‘Based on the above drainage pattern study, quantity of rainwater falling on unpaved area will be collected through storm water channels and sent to nearest water body. Quantity of the same is calculated.'

It also mentions: 'The proposed project site is located at higher elevation, provision shall be made to route the water through channel by gravity to nearest water body. The water falling on the paved area and buildings will be routed to rain water harvesting pits. Therefore, no flooding condition shall occur after construction of the proposed airport and there will be no net effect on the downstream areas.’

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From the reports of flooding that have appeared in the media, it can be presumed that there is a ‘net effect’ from the airport construction, for the flooding should not have occurred if the provision that the EIA had made had been taken care of.

We will have to wait to learn whether these precautions were indeed taken.

Development, while required and appreciated, has to consider the consequences of any environmental changes. Goa’s monsoon is well documented, and it is reasonable to expect runoffs from the rain to create floods if there are no proper channels to divert the water.

From the reports of flooding that have appeared in the media, it can be presumed that there is a ‘net effect’ from the airport construction, for the flooding should not have occurred if the provision that the EIA had made had been taken care of.

Mopa is just an example, but there are development projects across the State that do not undertake Environment Impact Assessments, because of their size, but still have an impact on the surroundings.

The Patto development in marshy land that always gets flooded could well be a case that illustrates this.

The monsoon has not ended. There are still over two more months of it, though the August and September rains are far less than that of July. But July is yet not over, we are just about coming to the middle of the month.

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At the time of writing this, the skies are still overcast and the sun has peeped through just once briefly in the past few days. Are there any measures being taken to reduce further flooding?

Also, if only the IMD could issue its alerts well in advance so people are warned of the rain. It serves no purpose if the coloured alerts come almost simultaneously with the rains.

The people need a forewarning of the weather as the authorities are not equipped to deal with the disruptions that come along with the heavy rain, but the people need to be so prepared.

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