Develop Panaji with a vision

With the onset of the Industrial revolution people began to move from rural areas to Urban Cities. Today more than half of the World’s population live in urban areas – towns, cities and even mega cities. A city is comprised of people, government, infrastructure, industry, education and social services. Cities are where people want to live, invest and work. That is why cities are becoming focal points of the future, they are the epicentre of sustainable development and economies .There are numerous definitions of the term “city” depending on countries, but the most common one defines “city” as a relatively large and permanent settlement.

A city has highly dense population and its inhabitants, citizens, mostly live in the city for employment connected with industry, commerce and services. Cities are very important contributors to the national economy, and have grown as centres of administration, industry, health care, education, entertainment, research, science and technology.

Cities are essentially the focal points of smart city initiatives, geared towards driving socioeconomic growth and long-term sustainability. They have to grow and change to fit their new roles and responsibilities as an epicentre of a sustainable economy. The administration and management functions have notably become more complex, spanning across multiple facets including socio-economic, cultural, environmental, and technological. The ability to create unique smart city ecosystems are now paramount in attracting a steady flow of investments and retaining top-notch talent. Where the quality of life lags behind, with much unmet demands and expectations of the residents, lopsided development takes place, leading to sheer urban chaos.

As the majority of the global population now resides in urban areas, city planners are faced with the growing challenges of providing citizens with a modern city that provides a good quality of life and a foundation for social-economic growth. In order to meet these growing challenges, city planners need to not only consider the physical planning of a city, but also how using information technology can make a city more efficient and effective in terms of the economy, environment, mobility and governance.

Smart city can be defined that “the use of smart computing technologies to make the critical infrastructure components and services of a city-which include city administration, education, healthcare, public safety, real estate, transportation, and utilities more intelligent, interconnected, and efficient”.

In fact, living conditions have such critical influences on the attractiveness of a location that migration to locations with more attractive living conditions can occur even if earnings in a destination are lower. Quality of life and the attractiveness of a city are profoundly influenced by the core systems of a city: transport, government services and education, public safety and health.

Smart cities in mature economies around the world attract a number of highly educated international migrants. This mobile pool of highly skilled workers move around in search of good quality of life and socio-economic growth. Cities face competition to attract skilled international migrants especially as skills, knowledge, creativity and technology innovation drive greater amounts of economic growth. In Asian economies too are attracting these international skilled migrants all of who will go to growing cities offering

A relatively stable and predictable quality of life.

So is the smart city drive across India just another buzz word? No it’s a serious effort by all stakeholders to transform and modernize key cities across India modelled on some Smart Cities across the world. The smart cities mission, launched by PM Narendra Modi will provide central funding of 48,000 crore to the selected cities for improving their infrastructure and service delivery through application of better technology and e-governance.

Panaji is the capital of Goa, India’s tiniest state and the headquarters of North Goa district. It lies on the banks of the River Mandovi estuary in Tiswadi taluka. Panaji is Goa’s largest city with an area of 36 sq km and a population of 1,14,405 in the metropolitan area.

Over the years the authorities have only added incrementally to the Infrastructure of this 19th century city designed as the capital of the erstwhile Estado da India. The main problem plaguing Panaji city just now is inadequate infrastructure to cope with the citizen’s daily need of water, electricity, telecom and broadband, sewage, garbage, vehicle parking, maintenance of streetlights, footpaths and open public spaces. Water tankers still pump water from wells and supply water to housing complexes and hotels around the city. Much is desired in terms of reliability and speed of telecom and broadband services including last mile connectivity.

The city roads are frequently dug up either by the PWD, electricity, and telecom either to incrementally enhance capacity or repair faults. Wet garbage is unscientifically treated in several places within the city and the entire city is one big 2 & 4 wheeler parking area.

City footpaths are badly maintained and often partly or fully occupied by vendors. The city transport buses are badly maintained, overcrowded and ply along the main DB road connecting only the outer city.

Over the years the city has expanded in all directions. The state secretariat and legislative assembly is located at Porvorim which is also a populated residential area. Porvorim too lacks the basic urban amenities like 24 hrs water, reliable power, sewage, garbage segregation. It also has a small education hub of schools, colleges and education boards. Cujira in St Cruz is emerging as another big education hub and will soon have more than 5,000 students. It already has a world class sports complex. The state medical and dental college is also here. A short distance away is the government complex of FDA, IPHB and nursing school. A university complex frequented by 2,000 people daily definitely deserves a place in the smart city.

Another new satellite city is emerging on the Kadamba plateau with high-end residential complexes, hotels, malls, schools and hospitals. It definitely deserves to be included in the smart city. Across Chimbel, the North Goa ESI hospital & IT park also needs inclusion.

The old city of Panaji has now expanded in the north towards Porvorim and with the completion of the cable stayed bridge for interstate traffic, the 2 older bridges can be exclusively used to seamlessly connect these 2 areas. Towards the south Panaji has expanded into Dona Paula, Bambolim and into Old Goa towards the East. Hence, it is suggested for the purpose of the smart city implementation areas from the north beginning from Damien de Goa in Porvorim to the marigold flower cross in Bambolim in the south and from Old Goa in the east up to the Arabian Sea in the west.

Call this the metropolitan Panaji smart city area for which the panchayats of these areas can work along with the CPP. The metropolitan Panaji smart city area will now cover an area of around 100 square km with an ever growing population of 2,50,000 residents, including tourists as hotel and guest house residents. This will bring us to scale and the money allotted can now be used to create some 21st century infrastructure or the thoroughly smart city infrastructure.

Over the years we have seen what our current system can deliver. For a remarkable change to happen we need a visionary leader at the top, a leader who has a smart city vision, who can see beyond the daily politics, a leader who can unite the 4 or 5 MLAs and the many panchayats to the CCP vision of a smart city.

E Sreedharan provided this leadership to the Konkan Railways and the metro projects, Nandan Nilekani provided the leadership to the aadhaar project, Sam Pitroda provided leadership to many Digital India projects. Do we have a leader who can provide leadership to the metropolitan Panaji smart city area?

We also need citizens who can provide hands on consultancy, guidance and share their expectations and expertize. This cannot be a traditional socialist government controlled project where all the decisions are made at the top by those who do not have a stake in the success of a smart city.

Cities that adopt smart thinking and smart systems, make wise investments to build a smarter city position themselves to thrive. In the last 15 years Dubai has put up an IT hub – the Dubai internet city and a healthcare hub – the Dubai healthcare city. Those that continue to invest in traditional infrastructure improvements designed for a mass population are very likely to struggle. Quo vadis the citizens of Goa? Quo vadis the citizens of Panaji?

The writer is an IT consultant and a resident of Panaji