Panaji: 22nd August 2018 ::: In 2016, Panaji figured among the 13 cities selected at the Fast Track Mode under the Union Ministry of Urban Development, Government of India’s Smart City Mission which was launched in 2015. Since then, the progress of Smart City Panaji has been phenomenal says Shri. Swayandipta Pal Chaudhuri, Managing Director and CEO, Imagine Panaji Smart City Development Limited, adding how, “Smart City Panaji is one of the quickest Smart City implementation that is happening in the country. Panaji is being looked at as one of the flagships models of the country today.”
Smart City Panaji has won many accolades like the Reform Awards by the Government of India For Good Performance, the Swachh Survekshan Award For being the Best State Capital in ‘Innovation and Best Practices’. Shri. Chaudhuri however is modest about them, “Award winning is a part of appreciating the people. Smart City has been conceptualized to be achieved with public support. It is not a top-down model. It is a bottom up approach. People have to support us in the process.”
Director of Imagine Panaji Smart City Development Limited, Shri. Sidharth Kuncalienker says, “We had several consultative meetings with the people and we continue to have these meetings. We have to deliver what the people want. We are striving to serve the city from the weakest point. For instance, we are planning universal footpaths which will be accessible to all, including the differently abled.”
The emphasis on improving the basic amenities in Panaji can’t be missed. Shri. Kuncalienker talks of the goals they have in plan, “We want to fulfill core priorities which affect the common man and not just have nice public spaces. We want to give adequate water, uninterrupted power to the people. We want the city to be safe, especially the women, children and the elderly. We want the garbage to be disposed in a proper way. We want to make Panaji a healthy city.”
Shri Chaudhuri agrees that a city can’t be smart if the basic amenities are not in place. However, he says everything they do at the Smart City requires following a procedure. “We get asked many times why Smart City is not doing anything about an issue for instance like the drainage. Of course we can do something about it but the mandate has to come. Tomorrow if there’s a mandate from the Government or any other agency that Smart City should be getting into that we are more than willing to work towards it.”
Shri Chaudhuri clears the misconceptions with regards what is a Smart City. “There are a lot of things that are not construed well on what a Smart City is. The idea of a Smart City is to build quality of life, to enhance quality of life, the way people live, etc. Smart City is about using technology For a better quality of life. For instance, you will be surprised to know that Panaji has a water supply of 310 LPCD (Litres per Capita per Day). That is the supply and the usage against the national average of 135. That tells you there is no shortage of water in Panjim. But then there are still people using tankers. This means there is an issue with the distribution. It’s not that there’s a scarcity of water. It means that the water is not getting in the right place where it is required. So this is where you can use technology where officials in the Public Work Department can monitor where there’s a pilferage, or water leakage. That’s exactly where the smart components of a Smart City are going to come in.”
One of the most vital components of Smart City Panaji is going to be the heritage conservation. Shri Chaudhuri talks about how Panaji can’t be compared with the other places in the country and says that the capital city of Goa is very different in terms of its aesthetic nature and the interventions required.
Shri Chaudhuri explains, “Our idea of smartness is not by changing or not by moving into concrete buildings and structures. The idea is about preserving the old so that we all know our history and where we come from and then move into a modern environment by the way of technology. It is very important that Goa’s original heritage and character is maintained.”
Highlighting the works done by Smart City Mission, Kuncalienker informs of the works, “Azad Maidan has been renovated. For the Mala Conservation Project we did up the internal lanes in this area. The houses here are close to each other, so we got many of the services underground. We built the pathways, illuminated the area, placed benches and did up the Mala Bridge which is a vital link from the point of view of transportation.”
Building capacity among the talent pool in Goa has been one of the successes of Smart City Panaji. Shri Chaudhuri informs, “We take consultants only when absolutely, technically required. What happens when you hire consultants is that they come and go. However, we are hiring a lot of local talent and ensuring that they get trained and knowledge is retained in the State of Goa. We try and do everything in-house.”
Controlling the traffic in the city is one of the highlights of the Smart City Mission. Shri Chaudhuri says that the idea of Smart City is that the walk able nature of Panaji has to be preserved. “We are putting a lot of things in place through a Comprehensive Mobility Plan. It is something that we are working on. We will have enough parking spaces and also at the same time reduce the vehicles that are coming into the city. Building car parks in the city is not the solution. You have to discourage people from using private transport and proliferate more on the public transport.”
Elaborating further he says, “We are thinking of mobility within the city. We are planning for an outer loop. But that is not an immediate plan. We are trying to bring some buses in the city, eco-friendly buses, to ensure that atleast the major areas of Panaji are covered and people can get from origin to destination in a time-bound manner. We are also building the infrastructure for a by-cycle sharing system.
Kuncalienker adds, “Under the AMRUT (Atal Mission For Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation) Mission, we have constructed pathways, and the steps in the city leading to the Althino hill. We have done a pedestrian bridge, done up the riverside in Campal and the Mandovi promenade at the same time protecting the banks of the River. We are also constructing a walking and cycling track.”
The inauguration of the Mangroves Boardwalk on the creek in Panaji, and other projects has been met with a lot of positivity from the people. Shri Chaudhuri acknowledges it, “You should get a look and feel that you are in a Smart City the minute you come into the Smart City. We are gearing up with our holistic planning. You have to appreciate that the Smart City has been here only for a little over a year and the progress that the Smart City Panaji has done has been truly phenomenal. I believe that we are on the right track and people are getting the benefits.”
Although it’s called Smart City Panaji, the benefits are moving beyond the confines of the city and projects are being lined up in the suburbs of Panaji as well. For instance, Ribandar’s power woes will be addressed with underground cabling of wires besides the other projects that are in the pipeline for Ribandar.