Panaji, which means the land that never floods, had so far only terraced hills, concrete buildings with balconies and red-tiled roofs, churches and a riverside promenade. But now, the citizens will have all the elements that any modern city can boast of in terms of infrastructure. State’s Urban Development Secretary Sudhir Mahajan, in an interview with Manish Arora of Elets News Network (ENN), tells how the government has involved residents and others to elevate Panaji into a worldclass city
What are the objectives of Smart Cities Mission?
The objectives of the Smart Cities Mission are to develop core infrastructure and provide a decent quality of life to the citizens residing in a specific city. There should be sustainable development, every citizen should be assured of 24×7 clean drinking water, a nice sewerage network, clean air, a sense of security and, above all, there should be focus on pedestrianisation and a multi-modal system of transport.
What are some of the specifications in the roadmap for making Panaji a smart city?
Since Panaji is a small place, with only 7 sq.km of area, its development can be strategised in two ways: one is areabased development and the second is a pan-city development. Since this is a very old city having a heritage character, area-based development could help better maintain the cultural heritage of the city. However, this mode of development can be replicated elsewhere, too.
And, pan-city development could be in the form of finding smart solutions for transport arrangement like I said previously: things like multi-modal system of transport, focus on pedestrianisation, creation of open spaces, etc.
This city has got complete package in terms of geographical versatility – water bodies, rivers, backwaters and the sea. So, all these areas need to be maintained properly. Zoning is to be done, so that an integrated development can take place.
And, since the entire proposal has been submitted to the Government of India after extensive consultation with the residents of the city, a consensus has evolved as to how the city has to develop.
“As a necessary feature of a smart city, the citizenry has to be interactive… Some key people from the citizenry have already been engaged (through various activities). Our plan proposal mostly consists of the aspirations of the citizens”
How far is resident participation of the city important in this endeavour?
As a necessary feature of a smart city, the citizenry has to be interactive. We should be in a position to provide e-governance, so that all the necessary services can be made available at the people’s doorstep and one doesn’t have to move out anywhere.
We want to provide all basic amenities — be it health, civic, etc., at the doorstep. The key people from the citizenry have already been involved. We have organised hotspots, conferences, meetings, interactive sessions, etc., for the purpose. It was a mammoth exercise that we undertook. Our plan proposal mostly consists of the aspirations of the citizens.
“This city (Panaji) has got complete package in terms of geographical versatility – water bodies, rivers, backwaters and the sea. So, we have to be very cautious that no damage is caused to the environment due to developmental activities”
How would you take care of the environment in this project?
From our past experiences, we have seen that with development gaining pace, the ecology of the place gets destroyed. So, ecosystem and environment are matters of great concern for us. Fortunately, in this city we have a lot of activists, who otherwise also happen to play the role of watchdogs. We have to be very cautious that no damage is caused to the environment while taking up developmental projects.
Now that Panaji features in the second list of the Government of India’s Smart Cities list, what would be the next step?
The next step is that we will form a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), which will ensure that the plans already been submitted to the Government of India are executed in proper way. SPV will consist of government officials and experts from respective fields. We will hold meetings for finalising various projects and work towards their implementation at various levels.