The Corona induced lockdowns across the nation have affected the smart city works to a major extent. However, the announcement from the centre which allowed the resumption of construction work was a breather for the smart cities. As the development works saw the light of the day, the authorities met with another issue of migrant labourers returning back to their home states. However, the development work has started and smart cities are bucking up to complete their targets. Talking on the Panaji Smart City works during lockdown and mobility issues in Goa, Swayan Chaudhuri, Managing Director and CEO, Imagine Panaji Smart City Development Ltd addressed a webinar organised by Elets Technomedia.
Smart Cities Mission
Chaudhuri started off with a brief on the Centre’s Smart Cities Mission and said, “There were two levels of smart city challenge – first the 100 smart cities chosen by the Centre and the second wherein the states are working on the lines of the smart cities mission on certain cities.” The whole idea of the smart cities mission is to do more from little, he added.
Elaborating on smart city interventions, he said, “Integrated Command and Control Centres (ICCCs), Integrated Traffic Management System (ITMS) and more such are a few common best practices that all the smart cities are following.”
Panaji Smart City
When asked about initiatives under the mission which are leading the way to actual development, Chaudhuri said, “I think one of the major moves under the mission which I personally believe in is the citizen engagement part. Goa is a highly literate state and every time we pass information through public we get back interesting suggestions.”
Speaking on the projects under the Panaji Smart City, he said, “We took a lot of project like building cycle tracks, waterfront development, pedestrianising streets and a lot more to enhance the liveability in the city.” Moreover, unique initiatives were taken like building walkway through mangroves. From technology to urban infra to aesthetics, it is spanned all across, Chaudhuri added.
Highlighting the progress of a few projects, Chaudhuri added, “The project is almost complete like upscaling the power infrastructure and linking the same with the ICCC. This is important because if anything goes wrong in future the officers can actually map the target area and can get the issues resolved. Throwing light on the resumption of projects halted due to lockdown he said, “All our projects are back on track now. The construction work has started for the beachfront projects.” The only reason, the smart city work can resume was support from the private sector, he added.
Further, Swayan told that the Panaji Smart City has signed an agreement with the Government of Denmark for developing an urban living lab to build capacity.
Talking on digitisation and use of technology, he said, “Our all internal communication is digital. So not much of an issue we faced when work from home came in…We managed to quickly set up a web platform to get approvals and other such works for which we needed to move out of the office.”
Public Transport: A Challenge for Goa
Speaking on public transport in Goa, Chaudhuri said, “Public transport is a real challenge for Goa. There are very few options available from the airport. Of course, the state has its buses but we are trying to look at better transport facilities.”
Adding on the topic he said, “High transport needs a lot of footfall. Considering Goa, it will not be viable to have metro or monorail or other such high transport systems due to less population, especially offseason in terms of tourism.”
However, there is a long term plan for improving mobility in Goa, he added. Chaudhuri said, “There is a comprehensive mobility plan for the state. Also, as there are no cab aggregators like Ola, Uber, we have partnered with a firm Goa Miles for cab services across the state.” Goa is also coming up with a new airport in the northern part of the state so we will be looking at inter-connectivity for that as well. And, partnership with Goa Miles can serve the purpose to an extent, he added.
Further addressing the issues faced due to lockdown and how tourism has been affected, Swayan said that tourism is a major industry in Goa and has faced a big drop due to lockdown. Resting his words he said, “Tourism forms a big chunk of Goa’s economy so we have to work on how to resume operations in a manner that we get the economy up and running again.”