By John Fernandes
Quepem is a small town in South Goa, situated on the bank of Kushawati River spreading covering over an area of around 20,000 sq.mts.
Though Quepem is small town since Portuguese era (1510 - 1961). It is a main center for Quepem, Sanguem, Canacona and part of Salcete. That most of the government offices like the Quepem Municipal Council, Mamlatdar, Dy-Collector, Civil Registration, Block Development Office, Child Development office, town and country planning, Excise department, Dy. SP., Government treasury, Electricity Department, Survey Department, Telephone Exchange, Assistant Director of Transport are situated in the heart of Quepem town. As there are number of important offices in Quepem town a large number of people daily make their way to Quepem for official work. As there is inadequate parking place in the town the parking is done on the side of the main road.
A narrow National Highway passes through Quepem town. There is no by-pass road, to divert traffic from the Quepem town. Any traffic from Margao Canacona and vice versa has to pass through Quepem town . The one way narrow bridge over the Kushawati river is situated just at a distance of 100 mts from the center of the town.
That from the years 2006 transportation of mineral ore from Maina-Cavrem mines started via Quepem town on a small note. Due to the transportation of ore via Quepem town, the town started facing lot of problem like dust , traffic jam, constant accident , as years passed and boom in mining the mining transport rapidly increased and in a day 1000 of mining truck used to pass through Quepem town apart from the regular transport , which resulted in affecting the business transaction.
Presently the due to mining transport the main problem faced by the Quepem town is not only the problem overloading or over speeding but of constant traffic jam.
The first agitation raised by the Quepekar against the mining transport was on 30 March 2007 following which a meeting was called by South Goa Collector G.P. Naik in Quepem Dy-Collector on 17/4/2007. At the meeting Collector G.P.Naik assured the villagers that immediate diversion of mining transport via Quepem town will be made. However in spite of the assurances give by the Collector in 2007 the transportation of mining ore via Quepem town continued till 2009. In 2009 the mining transport via Quepem town increase in many hold which compounded the problem of dust pollution, traffic jam which intern badly affected the business community. In the same year there were constant rasta roko of mining truck in and around Quepem.
That as due to mining the town is getting affected the Bazarkars (People doing small bussiness) in May 2009 decided not to allow the transportation of mining via Quepem town from next mining season. Due to hue and cry made by the Quepem residents at the end of May 2009 Quepem MLA Shri chandrakant Kavlekar was forced to made a statement through press that No transportation if Mining will be allowed via Quepem town from the next mining season. The Quepem Municipal council on 4/6/2009 passed a resolution thereby prohibiting entry for mining truck via Quepem town. The resolution which was passed unanimously was moved by councilor Rahul Pereira and was seconded by Councillor Manuel Colaso.
As the new mining season is started it is learnt that the mining firms, mining contractor, transport operators are pressurizing the Council and the MLA to permit them to transport the or via Quepem town. In spite of the pressure from the transport lobby Quepem MLA Shri Kavlekar has not given any green signal to the transporters.
Now it is learnt that the transport operators have made a representation to the Quepem Municipal Council stating therein they be permitted to transport. It is also learnt that in the representation they mentioned that they will not overload, nor overspeed and cover the top properly. The past record of the mining transporters indicate that they have no regard to the law, but they are law unto themselves.
Now based on the representation from the Truck owners the Quepem Municipal Council (QMC) has called a council meeting on 9th October to discuss over the issue. QMC Chairperson Lydia D’Costa when contacted informed that based on the representation of truck owner the council has called a meeting on 9/10/2009 and at the meeting the council will decide over the issue.
Now from the villager of Quepem it is learnt that the QMC is planning to reverse it resolution dated 4/6/2009 and other representatives planning to reverse their statement provided their interest is taken care of. If mining transport is operate via Quepem town time will tell the fate of Quepem.