New Mandovi Bridge: Injustice to Two Wheelers

By Ashwin Tombat
05 May 2019 17:23 IST

Atal Setu, the third bridge over the Mandovi river, has reduced traffic at key entry points to Goa’s capital city. Panaji goes to the polls on 19 May to elect a successor to the late Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, the man behind this new bridge.

According to the Goa State Infrastructure Development Corporation (GSIDC), an average of 66,000 vehicles were plying on the two Mandovi bridges every day. It estimated that an average of 25,000 vehicles would take the new bridge to travel to Ponda, Margao or further, without entering Panaji, thereby reducing traffic jams at the Kadamba Bus Terminus junction in Panaji.

Most of these expectations have been fulfilled, except that there is now a nasty traffic jam going into Panaji on the reconstructed Nehru Bridge during morning rush hours. But even this problem will probably be solved once both bridges are made one-way.

Of greater concern is the cost of the bridge. Around 5.13km long from Pundalik Nagar junction in Porvorim to the Merces junction, with a 620-metre cable-stayed section over the river, the bridge —built by Larsen and Toubro (L&T) — was initially tendered at Rs403 crore. After some additions, it went up to Rs482 crore. This has sharply escalated to Rs 860 crore.

Why?

Because Goa’s state coffers were empty, the government could afford to pay only 10 per cent of the project cost; Rs 51.40 crore. So Mr Parrikar took a 12-year loan from the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) at an alarmingly high commercial rate of interest of 10.5 per cent.  

The total amount to be repaid to NABARD in quarterly instalments by June 2027 stands at Rs866.44 crore. It’s the costliest bridge in Goa’s history.

But Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari came to the rescue. On a request by Mr Parrikar, he decided the centre will pay 50 per cent of the bridge’s cost — up to Rs400 crore — plus an additional Rs50 crore for the ring road connecting it. That still leaves the Goan taxpayer with a bill of nearly Rs467 crore to be paid over the next eight years.

Two-wheelers are banned from using the new Mandovi bridge. According to ‘The Navhind Times’, GSIDC sources say two-wheeler riders will face danger on the new bridge owing to “high-velocity winds”.

Really?

It is true that wind speeds in the lower atmosphere increase with height above ground level. This is called wind velocity gradient or wind shear. Surface friction makes winds slow near the Earth’s surface. Comparatively, winds well above the Earth's surface are nearly frictionless, and fast.

But this requires a difference in altitude of hundreds of metres. Moreover, irregular terrain and man-made obstructions on the ground retard movement of winds near the surface. But wind speeds do not vary that much over relatively smooth water surfaces.

The old Mandovi bridges are 13 metres above the water level. The new Mandovi bridge is 30 metres above the water surface. The difference is negligible, at just 17 metres. How much can wind speeds increase over a mere 17 metres of altitude?

If the old Mandovi bridges are safe for two wheelers, so is the new Mandovi bridge. I challenge any self-proclaimed expert to disprove this.

The new Mandovi bridge is meant for through traffic. It is not meant just for four wheelers and heavy vehicles. Goa has 14.50 lakh vehicles. Of these, 70 per cent are two wheelers. This means the overwhelming majority of Goa’s taxpayers are two-wheeler owners. It is they who will pay most of the Rs467 crore that remains to be paid for this new bridge.

But, even as they are being made to pay for the new bridge, they are being denied its use. And for fake and invented ‘reasons’. That is very unfair.

Does the present BJP-led government in Goa want to favour better-off four-wheeler owners at the cost of the two-wheeler owning ‘aam admi’? Does it want to give credibility to Congress chief Rahul Gandhi’s ‘suit-boot ki sarkar’ jibe? If not, it needs to review its decision on two wheelers ASAP.  

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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