Shiroda-Rachol bridge may never be a reality

The election promise by the Shiroda MLA, Mr Mahadev Naik to build a bridge over river Zuari linking Shiroda and Rachol may remain a promise on paper and people from Shiroda may have to continue waiting in long queues to use the ferry to cross the river, if the government fails to build a consensus on the issue.

It may be recalled that Mr Naik, in his election manifesto, had promised to build the bridge on a priority basis, if elected to power. However, nothing has been happening and fulfilling the promise will require walking the tight rope to win over the residents of Rachol, who have passed a resolution at a gram sabha meet, strongly opposing the proposed bridge.

Sources close to the Shiroda MLA are, however, still optimistic that the bridge will see light of the day before the end of this term. They are also confident of persuading the people of Rachol. The Shiroda MLA, who is presently in New Delhi on an official visit, was not available for his comment.

The bridge has been a long-pending demand of the people from Shiroda, Panchwadi and the surrounding areas so that they can easily reach the commercial capital of Margao and need not depend heavily on the ferry service, which witnesses a heavy rush during the peak hours.

However, the Rachol villagers are strongly opposed to the bridge as it will pass through the fields, destroying the fertile agricultural land. That apart, the Rachol seminary too has strongly opposed the bridge and it also faces stiff opposition from the local MLA, Mr Alex Reginaldo Lourenco. Speaking to ‘The Navhind Times,’ Mr Lourenco said, "The villagers are strongly opposing the bridge, so I will stand by them as I have no vested interest in the bridge. The Rachol seminary too has opposed the bridge. Hence, there is no question of supporting the bridge."

The existing ferry service reduces the distance from Shiroda to Margao by nearly five kilometres via the Borim bridge and witnesses over 60 cars and over 500 two-wheelers using the ferry on a daily basis.

Sources in the water resource department said that the government incurs a monthly expenditure of around Rs 5 lakh per ferryboat, which includes the salaries of the staff, maintenance of the ferryboat and diesel expenses. The official said that each ferry uses around 45 litres of diesel a day, adding that the department has deputed two ferryboats on the route. He said that in the mornings and afternoons, the ferryboats leave every ten minutes but after 10 am the ferry plies every 15-20 minutes. He further said the ferries witness huge crowds especially in the mornings when people go to work and the evenings when people return home.

Mr Arvind Naik from Shiroda, who travels regularly on this route by ferry, said it does cause a lot of inconvenience as a lot of time is wasted. "Secondly, the ferryboats are poorly maintained and the government should work towards building a consensus on the bridge issue as this has been a long-pending demand of the people. The bridge will also ease traffic over the Borim bridge, besides saving a lot of time of the people," he said.

Mr Joaquim Pereira from Panchwadi said, "People should stop playing politics on infrastructure development. The bridge will benefit people from both the areas (Shiroda and Rachol), especially the people from Panchwadi who need to go to Margao and are presently forced to take either the Borim or Curchorem route. [NT]