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Goa: Land of Fancy Bridges

If Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar has his way, cheap Goa could soon come to be known as ‘bridge country’ foregoing its current, well known ‘beach country’ label.

Parrikar’s government has unveiled plans to build half-a-dozen bridges in the state, one of which will run across the Mandovi river to connect the capital city with the North and be a spectacle replete with a 360-degree revolving restaurant at its apex.

According to Parrikar, the cost of the six bridges will collectively be a whopping Rs 5.7 billion and his government has already initiated the process of calling for bids from contractors by floating the tenders. Actual work on the bridges will commence on Independence Day (August 15) this year.

In addition to the bridge with a revolving restaurant in Panjim, the other five bridges the government proposes to build include one in the eastern hinterland at Amona-Virdi and another in the North linking Camurlim village to Tuem in the northernmost Pernem sub-district. Two other bridges will be in the north?at  Chorao-Pomburpa and Keri-Tiracol?while only one is planned in the south linking Shiroda to the historic Rachol village.

The state, already strapped for cash following the halt in mining revenues due to a court imposed ban, will fund these bridge projects through borrowings from government owned funding agencies like NABARD and HUDCO.

Goa State Infrastructure Development Corporation will construct the bridges. The Shiroda- Rachol bridge will be meant for light vehicular traffic (two and four wheelers) only, while the one linking Camurlim and Tuem will include a 200-metre tunnel instead of an approach road on the Camurlim side.

Goa, which has six rivers running horizontal into the west coast-hugging Arabian Sea, already has over a dozen major bridges, besides several other smaller ones and two railway bridges. It also has a showy cable-stayed bridge linking Aldona village to the Korjuvem island, which several Bollywood  film makers have in the past chosen as a shooting locale.

Goa’s tryst with bridges had begun during the 450-year colonial rule of the Portuguese, known then as a maritime superpower. The colonial rulers built a number of bridges and causeways. The one linking the capital city to Ribandar, known as the Ponte de Linhares is over 350 years old and three kilometers long, is said to be one of the longest in Asia. These bridges and causeways were built by the Portuguese to supplement the inland water transport and improve intra-state transportation.

In his first innings as Chief Minister, Parrikar had built a couple of bridges including the cable-stayed Korjuvem bridge.

Now, he says, two of the new bridges (Panjim-Betim and Keri-Tiracol) will be high-cost, signature ones and ‘very beautiful’ to look at.

Atop the one being built on the Mandovi River in Panjim, there will be a revolving restaurant set up at a height. It will have only two piers and culminate at the current ferry wharfs, to avoid constructing additional approach roads which will interfere with the existing road patterns in the capital city.

But the story of Goa and its bridges hasn’t always been rosy. In 1986, the Mandovi bridge named after India’s first Prime Minister (Jawaharlal Nehru) suddenly collapsed on the morning of July 5, killing at least half a dozen people and injuring several others. The bridge (since repaired and rebuilt) was just 16 years old when two of its spans collapsed.

Ironically, Jagjivan Ram, a central leader minister and father of current Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, who had inaugurated the bridge in the 1970s also breathed his last in a Delhi hospital the same evening after it collapsed. In another irony of sorts, a span of the second bridge parallel to the Nehru bridge, also collapsed during construction killing two workers.

With all these ambitious plans been unveiled, Goa could soon be better known for its spectacular bridges than its world-famous beaches, if things go as per Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar’s plans.