Will the Dona Paula Jetty be next to fall?

By Ashwin Tombat
23 May 2017 13:53 IST

 

Tragedy struck Sanvordem on Thursday evening. Fire Services personnel were searching for the body of a youth who had jumped into the river from an old footbridge that connects Curchorem to Sanvordem over the River Zuari. Around 50 to 60 people were watching. A portion of the bridge collapsed from their weight, plunging them into the river. A few saved themselves by holding onto the bridge. Some managed to swim to shore. Others were rescued. Three bodies were recovered.

The footbridge had been closed by the authorities after a new bridge was constructed. PWD Minister Ramkrishna (Sudin) Dhavalikar did not exactly cover himself in glory as he sought to shirk responsibility and shift the blame onto the unfortunate victims by claiming that authorities had barricaded both sides of the footbridge and put up a board warning people not to enter the bridge!

Why was this dangerous bridge not dismantled and removed by the authorities...? 

He has now announced that all Portuguese-era bridges will be audited for their load-bearing capacity, at a cost of Rs1 crore per bridge, "to ensure that such incidents are not repeated". Maybe the honourable minister should pay attention to a fairly modern structure which is in similarly dire straits.

 

The new Dona Paula jetty, built by the Goa State Infrastructure Development Corporation (GSIDC) and completed as recently as 2009, is in deep distress. The reinforcing steel bars in the structure are exposed and corroding. The beams show deep cracks along the reinforcement, suggesting classical beam failure (see photograph).  

This is no secret. The Goa State Infrastructure Development Corporation (GSIDC) ordered a Non-Destructive Test (NDT) on the jetty in April last year, and knows it is unsafe.  But the test report has been kept top secret.

Could this be because this unbelievably shoddy construction was by the GSIDC’s all-time favourite contractor M/s M Venkata Rao Infraprojects, which has bagged nearly a third of all GSIDC projects? We do not know, but the corporation seems to have kept the public, as well as other governmental agencies in the dark about the real condition of the jetty. 

There are no restrictions on entry of visitors, who number in their thousands each day, to the jetty. Besides, the Captain of Ports Department recently gave permission to a daily ferry service from Baina beach in Vasco to Dona Paula and Panaji, which is to commence operations from October 2017.

 

This may sound alarmist, but it is wise to remember that Reinforced Cement Concrete (RCC) structures can suddenly disintegrate and collapse without any warning, as a result of corrosion of the reinforcing steel. That's why so many people die in building collapses.  

The Central Public Works Department (CPWD) ‘Manual on Repair and Rehabilitation of RCC Buildings’ clearly states that exposed steel in concrete rapidly corrodes and expands to 10 times its size, cracking the concrete around it and allowing permeability of atmospheric gases. This facilitates further and more rapid corrosion, especially in a chloride-rich marine environment. Accelerated corrosion causes even greater cracking and then ‘spalling’ of concrete, exposing large sections of the steel reinforcement to the atmosphere, resulting in thinning of the steel reinforcement and ultimately leading to the collapse of the structure.

Is the government waiting for a bigger tragedy in Dona Paula? If not, it needs to immediately take a closer look at the Dona Paula jetty and then take decisive action.

Blogger's Profile

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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