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Wednesday, 5.10.2022
eGovernment Forschung seit 2001 | eGovernment Research since 2001

Smart cities, digital cities, virtual cities, connected cities. Are these just trendy buzzwords or mean anything substantial?

These cities are smart (thoughtful, people-centric), digital (driven by data acquisition, measured, analysed and sometimes exchanged) and virtual (experiential). And, as a result, they are connected, creating more potential interactions between people and their place.

Tel Aviv is one of these cities, which made a name for itself as the smartest city with innovation clusters teeming with companies at the cutting edge of technology. Taking cue from this, the Government of India launched Smart City Mission in India to rejuvenate Indian cities by finding solutions to teething urban problems supported by technology.

Panjim too was selected amongst the cities for its project. But seven years down the line, while many other cities like Indore have gone away ahead, Panjim continues to on a downhill.

Vishal Rawlley, urbanist and environmental activist, who has taught at the School of Planning and Architecture Delhi, said he knew how these things come into play.

“Firstly you know the smart city is a public limited it's a private limited company so it's not responsible to give any answers to the citizens you can't find a RTI application you can't vote them out unlike like your municipal but it's under the agencies,” he said.

Rawley said that it's a quasi-government body, but registered as a private limited company.

“Nevertheless, their mandate was to have a lot of citizens consult consultation that was because it there used to be competition for best ideas and the citizens participated with great enthusiasm. They thought this is an opportunity to get their voice in because the process was like that and we all gave in a lot of suggestions. We had some hopes that they would go forward but as you can see this is maybe seven years down the line nothing much has come to fruition right so that's a big disappointment,” the urbanist said.

So, what really went wrong with the smart city mission and on the ground?

Activist and Congress spokesman Sanjay Barde said it is complete corruption in the name of Smart City.

“There’s a lot of difference between the Panjim in earlier days and today. Previously, water never overflowed from the gutters on to the main road. At present if you see all the roads are completely under water. The excess water is not being drained out as they are choked,” he said.

Armando Gonsalves, Founder Chairman, Goa For Giving said that the authorities have never taken the wisdom of the people of Goa into consideration.

“For example you consider IFFI there would be consultants from Delhi, Kolkata. For Smart City you get smart city consultancy from outside, who can’t comprehend what are the local problems. Despite having people within Goa - architects, engineers you know you name it – they aren’t involved. So I think the lack of involvement of local experts is the biggest problem,” Gonsalves said.

Why is it that despite inviting experts locally, there was limited involvement in the discussions? What happened in these meetings? Did nothing really happened?

“I really would not know. But I will just give a small example of the one project that I was involved amongst many others, which was the Campal Creek. I remember even though we were called for meetings, but we were successfully kept outside the whole thought process. So I personally feel that people have been left out and definitely it did hit at rock,” he said.

Now the issue is why can't we get our drainage system right and where are we going wrong because of which our city is getting flooded over and over again?

Retired Civil Engineer, KV Chandran said before the rains all drainage systems surrounding some Panjim should be cleaned of the waste blocking its passages and everything should be removed.

“And now what they are doing it after the rains have set in. It should not be like that. Now another thing is the issue of high tide water also. The problem is more acute now than previous years because of climate change. The high tide water levels have gone up very high compared to previous years. So for that also, the government has to take some measures especially the water resources department and the PWD along with municipality have to coordinate with each other to find solutions,” Chandran said.

Is the city’s drainage network good enough to take the load of storm water?

Chandran said that a committee of expert including engineers should be set up to sort out this issue.

Chandran who has done very good work in Diwar island to stop flooding there, said flooding is directly connected with high and low tide.

“During high tide, the sluice gates automatically close down and open up during low tide for the water to get out from khazan fields,” he said.

Essentially, one of the reasons why this flooding is happening in such a big way is drainage system. Is it part of the whole smart city project? What is wrong exactly with the drainage system?

Vishal Rawlley said that the system of bandhs and sluice gates which we call the khazan system has stood the test of time since centuries.

“These bandhs are still existing in Goa and that did not work with any smart technology or heavy machinery manual labour, using local soil available materials and you know traditional wisdom and what do you do. Water finds its own level you let it flow. But now there is rampant construction in those low-lying areas. We are squeezing the water of the flood plains and catchment areas and you know that is leaving water no space to go,” he said.

So, no matter how much you upgrade your drainage system, if you're squeezing the natural way of the water so the drainage won't be able to ever suffice for that choking that you're causing them.

“You cannot update your drainage system frequently since it is not a software update that you just install. It's a huge job and when it's made it is made, it is done with 50 years planning, not for two-three years. So the smart thing to do is to use the smartness the ancient wisdom as advantage, which is totally ignored by consultants who are paratrooped from somewhere,” the environmentalist said.

When asked about lack of seriousness amongst politicians in taking up the issue of deteriorating Panjim’s infrastructure during elections,

Sanjay Barde said that there is no difference in the rainfall now and earlier. But what is happening now is gutters get filled. If you see Portuguese time buildings and today’s, you see tall buildings coming up. Actually Panjim doesn’t need big buildings.

When asked about how is it actually affecting the drainage system and thereby affecting the flood situation, K V Chand said that the drainage system has been mainly affected because the contractors are using poor quality materials.

“Be it cement, the concrete mix mixing on top of that and even side parabolas and drainage, the materials being used is of inferior quality. Even the reinforcement used is not proper. Whenever a vehicle passes, the drains crack,” he said.

He also said that system of drainage systems should be modified in a way that water does not accumulate.

Elaborating on this, Vishal Rawlley said that now the mandate is if you have a building society above 30 flats, it requires its own sewage treatment system. “So when you go to look at the flat you look at the room, you are not going down to the building and inspect whether they have adequate sewage management system,” he said.

Giving example of building societies in Taliegao, he said these had inadequate sewage treatment system.

“Centralizing sewage treatment is a problem right now. We have only one sewage treatment plant in North Goa. It is not yet connected with sewage networks, while maximum number of housing societies has come up in Taleigao. With so much population and not having a proper sewage network system compounds the problem, especially when this sewage enters the fields where the food is grown.

Out of the 10 sewerage wards, has the sewerage system of Panjim been connected to the Talegaon STP?

“The Taleigao sewage treatment plant is not being used for Taleigao, but it is the Panjim sewage which is being treated through that is so that they can test that system. And so that's performing optimally and this in a service period contract. Then you need to verify it. They have planned for greater capacity in the future. So they are well designed and they are working,” Rawlley said.

But there is no connection. The pipelines from Talegaon have been laid or are still being laid and every now and then the roads are dug up. And it's a slow process.

“These building are not operating their sewage treatment system, which should be the case in reality. So that has created along with fading sewage that means its waterborne diseases are causing pain to the farmers and it's a stinking mess,” the environment expert said.

“We have seen bloated bodies like turtles, fishes and snakes floating on that St Inez creek whenever the rains come, because the water becomes jet black and stinking. It's a mess. It is really frightening. All the people who stay in the adjoining areas, you know, which are vote banks should know this is how their vote is manipulated. This is the condition they have to live in,” he said.

Speaking about seepage of sewage into fields, is it because raw sewage is actually dumped into the St Inez Creek, which ultimately is flowing into the paddy fields?

“The Taleigao water table is so high that you know the fields they get the irrigation from by digging a small well just two meters. Rain water is overflowing right now because of the monsoon. There's a soak pit, right? But there can be no soaking happening when the ground is already saturated with water. So those systems don't work, and it's low lying, so you know it's completely inadequate,” the urbanist said.

“They have to have their own STPs or they have to have compost toilets, non flush toilets. Smart City Mission is supposed to bring in these ideas of how to manage our toilet waste in a modern way by evolving toilet designs,” he added.

As we were discussing nala and creeks there's a message for all the Goans. Our parents have entrusted us with the responsibility to take care of the further gernerations. Like that we have to think about Panjim city and how the future generation will take it further.

The Mayor, CCP Commissioner and Government of Goa are responsible for the future of Panjim. Panjim city is getting spoiled, the atmosphere is getting affected, why is it getting affected because the administration is considering nala as the creek. You can't call men women and women men.

We Goans are actually responsible for this mess because we don’t say anything, we just keep quiet. We should speak and not be silent. Whoever it may be - the prime minister or whoever, nobody is above the law. We Goans keep quiet. We should talk, we should get our voices out for Panjim city like they make nala as the creek and creek as nala just because of the hotel earlier.

Why is it taking so many years for the administration to get its act together? Where are we going wrong? Why are we going slow on this?

“Yeah, see, now a lot of work has happened recently on this and it's shocking that, you know, the creek has been reduced to half his size right in places. So again, you are squeezing.It is as narrow as it can, again, because huge real estate is coming on along the banks of the Creek. So for that kind of development, you need an access road, and that has to be a certain width. How do you create that bit? by squeezing in the Creek. If you squeeze in the Creek, where will the water go? It will flood. So it is like we’re just waiting for disasters like in Bombay, Hyderabad and Chennai we're seeing. We're just building the path towards that disaster,” Vishal Rawlley said.

Does it feel like corruption is literally floating in the water?

Armando Gonsalves said that the corruption is everywhere.

“We must ask the question where you don't see? It's happening everywhere. At the creek, I remember some officers came up to me and said we have a budget of Rs 200 crores for the creek. So why do you require Rs 200 crores for the creek? I think in Rs 10 to 20 crores you can have an international style drainage system. Leave it to the people of Goa, leave it to the ordinary people of Goa, who have the wisdom, who understand,” Gonsalves said.

Citing an example, he said that the bridge behind his house was built in the 1960s. “So one day, Dr Claude Alvarez and I were going under the bridge and we could not go. We could see the steel bars hanging so it was about to collapse. So that came in the newspapers. The media picked it up and said that the bridge is hanging on by a thread,” he reminisced.

The government said let's have a new bridge. Let's have a new bridge, let's do something new.

“So when I spoke to the consultant authorities, I don't like to mention names. I told them, I said let's have an international style bridge where you have things like Venice, people come by boats, people sing a song, you have unplugged music and great international style. So these guys assured me, no issue. And I said one small request. Have a nice curved bridge which will enable all of us to go through it,” he said.

But when the work started, he just happened to ask the authorities about the construction plan. He could see the bridge coming up in the same flat manner. The engineers looked at each other and said Armando was right and they took three months more to redesign the bridge and build it.

“Now is that my job? My question is that is it the job for each individual to have a look because I am concerned. The only interest of government authorities is how they can make quick bucks. A minister sits on his chair and he is not bothered to see what he can do. He is more interested in how much he can put in his pocket. I have given up business because corruption is so endemic right now. You cannot do a business without paying,” he said.

Now what happens is when you're working on a road that road is entirely yours but now you have different agencies laying claim to the road?

K V Chand said when he joined the government service in 1973, there was no corruption at all. Everybody was pretty happy, whatever people came and we would work freely.

“Afterwards, slowly, slowly, slowly corruption increased from the peon to the top officer to the up to the chief, everywhere there is corruption. If go back in time, we will find that if there is any project for farmers then you should call for the meeting, then you have to discuss the way, to teach them, guide them. The earlier systems used to do like that, which included even the Agriculture Department and the PWD. They used to call every month or once in six months. People connected with the particular project would be called for the meeting,” Chand said.

Now the system is not all there. They used to call the same people who were interested in fishery, fishing jobs, and agriculture also like that. The system should be reintroduced, he said.

Armando Gonsalves said that we have to go into our depths to understand what we are up to.

“Are we living in a Goa which is good for our future, for our children or are we just selfish? I think that's where the problem is because everyone has thrown his hands up in the air. No one believes that something good can come out of this. We have to get down to that. All engineers, architects all come from there. We have to clean our hearts and we have to search ourselves to understand that we are seriously making a mistake here and only when that change comes about, will we be able to see a paradigm shift,” he said.

And for that, youth have to play an important role.

“People like us are there for giving guidance. But I do consider my generation part of a failed generation. I might not have failed, personally. That's the generation we have failed. But even when the generation fails, we need to pass the baton properly. And even if you don't pass the baton properly, you will lose the baton. So it's time that passing of the baton has to be done. It is all in the heart. It's in the spirit and we need to get it right there,” Gonsalves said.

Vishal Rawlley said that in the last few years, activists have stood shoulder to shoulder with farmers in Talegaon.

“The youth have participated in activism on the ground for saving Taleigao’s fields. Be it the youth or the local people, the farmers, the fisherfolk - all have come together. We have seen a lot of youth leaders. We have seen common citizens. We have seen the intellectual fraternity, the scientists, the experts in environment – all standing with each other,” Rawlley said.

“We have Elsa Fernandez, who is guiding youth. We have Tallulah Dsilva who’s guiding youth. We have youth leaders like Cecil Rodriguez. They have all stood there, stood for the right cause. They have recognized Goa for what it is and Goa has seen a series of protests, waves and waves of protests. And finally, we have had to go to court and the court has given us the judgment in our favour like or, at least in the Mollem case,” he said.

“It's a very tough fight because governance is completely off the rails and there is no alternative in terms of any viable opposition. Or if there is their bottom one so it is citizens and common folk who have stood together, and they have shown that they really care about Goa and they have brought all the issues to the fore. The media has given that support and I hope that this generation carries that struggle forward because we have learned from the Nylon 6, 6; Konkani language issue, and all those issues. People have fought to make this land what it is and the struggle has to continue this,” Rawlley said.

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Quelle/Source: Herald Goa, 10.07.2022

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