The pre-monsoon showers arrived this time, as usual, unexpected; providing respite from the scorching sun and prickling heat that had made our lives hell. It rained. More so, it poured, and everyone was caught unaware.
The string of people stranded on the road with their two-wheelers, as they forgot to carry their rain gear; people running for shelter, and vehicles wading through the wet roads and flood water, served as a prelude to `Monsoons 2017’.
The roads, which were on the verge of having heat haze, were flooded with water, with the vehicles trying to push through the puddles and almost inaccessible roads. The street-side gutters or drains suddenly disappeared under the deep waters. The entire surface became one long patch of water, with drivers and riders using past knowledge to get lucky and cross the waters.
Some successfully managed to cross over the watery path, whereas some were seen not taking any chance and waiting for the rains to subside. There were many who used their wisdom to do what humans are best known for – following the leader. The ones in the front were leading those at the back in crossing water-logged roads.
This entire scene could possibly be compared to that of a circus. ‘The Neutral View’ website was quick enough to release the story for its readers, and we aptly titled it ‘Rains Create Havoc in the State’. The link of our website, which has the latest pictures of the flooded roads and stranded vehicles, was circulated all across on social media. Different WhatsApp groups created by like-minded mobile users had people forwarding the link of our story.
In one of the many WhatsApp groups, a senior Forest Department official, whom I always respect for being genuine towards his duty, responded quickly, saying: “Never say the rains have created havoc. We have created havoc for the rains by blocking the traditional pathway.” The comment was well taken and was enough to trigger a thought process.
It is very easy to blame the rains for the conditions that we are encountering.
The rains have no public relation agency or media support to defend itself. But are the rains to be blamed for all this? It has been raining since time immemorial. It is we who are supposed to be blamed – we have encroached on the traditional pathways.
During my initial days of journalism, I remember covering stories of how the houses at Mala (Fountainhas) in Panaji were inundated with water when it poured. It was a tough task to wade through the kneedeep water with the cameraman to capture images of the people using all possible means to empty the water that had entered their houses.
While their houses remained flooded, the residents were always busy blaming authorities – then Panaji Municipal Council – for not cleaning the gutters or storm drains. And I was innocently writing what they said, till one renowned environmentalist told me the real story.
Mala was traditionally a place for the water to settle down after running down from Altinho hill. The place where water gathered, was occupied by houses. Where could the water go? We cannot manipulate its nature. Thus, every monsoon, the water rushed into the houses.
The mindless planning by humans while developing their habitation results in such kind of havoc. Initially, we all got settled in the patches of land that we could afford to buy. In absence of proper planning, the development was haphazard and hazardous. But then came the wisdom to plan cities.
Anyone who has constructed his own house knows how difficult it is to get clearances from the Government office. They ask for all kind of documents; here, the role of planning comes into picture.
Regional Plan, one document that shook the government, can play a crucial role in ensuring that such havocs do not occur. The land use plan, which is supposed to decide where the development should be allowed and where it should not be, should also map the flooding’s during the rains.
It is the duty of the Town and Country Planning Department officials to mark the traditional pathways of water during rains and ensure that they are not blocked. Also during the entire rain, the Department should map the areas which are often flooded.
There can be two cases: one, flooded houses and second, flooded areas other than houses. I don’t support that we should now ask the people to shift their houses but certainly we can save the damage to future. Like green patches and wetlands that are supposed to be protected in the Regional Plan, the Department should also protect the traditional pathways through which the water flows.
Any development that blocks the natural water pathway should be barred. Let the water flow smoothly till its natural end. If we block it, then it will change its course and create damage. Then we cannot just sit around and blame municipality, village panchayat or government for not cleaning gutters. Gutters are meant to allow the lesser flow of water to get channelised.
We can’t expect the rainwater which streams from the hills to run through the gutters. Especially when it rains heavily, we can’t expect the water to be obedient and take the route that we want.
This is the right time. The monsoons have already arrived in the State. This is also a period when state government, I mean to say Vijai Sardesai, has started talking about Regional Plan. Sardesai speaks about the long-term vision. So mapping of the rainwater ways should also be included in the plan.
There are huge expectations from the current government. It is expected that the Regional Plan would be developed with minute details of all the areas across the State. We have heard stories of how one of the kin of the then Chief Minister used to sit in a five star hotel with a map and draw red and green lines on the plan without having proper knowledge of the topography.
But that is the past and those who did it have been punished. It’s a fresh beginning. Now is the time that we design a plan that will not only please human beings but also the rain God. If you block His path, He will not let you live in peace.
It has started raining in Goa. This is the time when Goa is at its best. We also need to keep Goa the same throughout. When we plan, we need to apply our mind. Or someday, we may be washed away into the mighty rainwaters.