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Calangute: A new beginning ?

A widened road in Calangute – though still a ‘work in progress’

Believe it or not, we’re actually seeing some progress

Something extraordinary appears to be happening in Calangute, in many ways the epicenter of the Goan tourism industry. To be sure, garbage, raw sewage, congested roads and the ubiquitous male-mob tourist throngs continue to mar the landscape. But if you look beyond the muck, a real effort is being made to lift up this scrappy beachside town and help it achieve its tourism potential.

Calangute plays host to the largest population of the state’s 2.5 million domestic tourists. With its narrow dusty roads with haphazard pedestrian walkways, shops jutting out onto the streets, slow moving traffic and absent amenities, the news that the state government is investing in improving the infrastructure was music to the ears of businessmen as well as local residents. However, the slow pace and suspicious nature of the work in progress is leaving some with a bad taste.

A total of 73 road renovations are planned with many underway in the villages of theCalangute constituency, including the Calangute and CandolimPanchayats. An estimated total of over Rs 70 crore has been allotted for road development work in Calangute.Work on the Calangute-Candolim stretch and widening of the Calangute-Baga road has already commenced. A new bridge to replace the old and narrow Calangute-Arpora bridge as well as other works are already in progress.

“I am sure I will able to complete road work worth Rs 50 crore by year end,” local legislator Michael Lobo said while speaking at a recent launch of resurfacing the roads.

However, with more than a year passed and only half the work of laying sewer pipes complete, the area of the Calangute-Baga road resembles a disaster zone. “Life hasn’t improved much… In fact it is the same. The work is not complete, pedestrians still have no place to walk and the traffic is often crazy,” says Sheena Barnes, a young professional who lives along the road. The authorities had kept the Calangute-Baga road blocked for most of the latter part of last year and even today it is only open periodically. If the conditions of the unfinished road remain the same, it will be hell for residents to negotiate during the rains.

Much of the work is being carried out without the consent of landowners, a number of whom are set to lose their property, or at least parts of it. This, of course, is common practice around the world. The public good trumps the interests of property owners when it comes to roads and other public works. But that hasn’t stopped folks like Arpora resident Adv Antonio Albuquerque from lambasting Lobo and his infrastructure works. “How can he come and cut trees without the consent of the owners? Worse still shouldn’t the government acquire the land before it wants to undertake any public interest projects? No land acquisition has taken place,” Albuquerque exclaimed.

Lobo has himself admitted that some of the expansion works, especially on the road from Nagoa to Arpora,have been undertaken without acquisition of land but “through the consent from the owners.” What is clear is that most owners are not amused. Some have lost or stand to lose age old fruit bearing trees that have fed generations.

The work was temporarily stopped by the Election Commission prior to the elections, after Albuquerque and a group of others raised the issue with the election commission. This move has slowed down the “development” of Calangute, with the work along the Baga-Calangute road all but stopped. Hotmixing, a term coined to refer to resurfacing of roads with a carpet of gravel mixed with hot tar, is however on in the area.

There are plans to hot mix roads from Baga toCalangute right up to the helipad in Sinquerim which then heads to the Kidear junction on the left just before the Arpora Bridge. All these works are high priority and are underway. Even the work on the road from Calangute Association to Hotel Charleston, having a total width of fourteen meters, has been chalked out.

The government also plans to build road dividers on the road from Sinquerim to Saligao and on the newly tarred road connecting Mapusa to Calangute.

Calangute local politician, Joseph Sequeira, said that before carrying out the road work, the government should complete footpaths, lay cables for street lights, install sewage pipes etc. It would be wasteful to finish the roads before all of this ancillary work was complete, he said.

Still, no matter your position, the fact that infrastructure improvement is happening at all is a cause for celebration – considering the years of outrageous inaction that preceded this day.