PANAJI: Plans will come and plans will go, but Panaji will always remain the same. This skeptical sentiment seems to be the general feeling of Panjimites, who have, in the past decade, seen a number of master plans promise a city free of traffic snarls, water scarcity, parking problems and that nasty, lingering garbage smell. 'Imagine Panaji', drawn up by architects from Spanish consultancy firm LKS, may by far be the best presented, but it certainly is not new, say experts.
Brandishing a fat volume of 'Panaji 2030' drawn up by Housing & Urban Development Corporation (HUDCO), former corporation of the city of Panaji (CCP) consultant Joe D'Souza points out that the government had the blueprint for a holistic development plan back in 2006.
"HUDCO won the mandate to create the plan following a bidding process by the Goa state urban development agency (GSUDA) and we roped in experts in each field to implement the plan. A detailed project report (DPR) for each aspect-transport, parking, waste management, conservation of heritage areas-was prepared, and the projects were approved by the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) scheme. But instead of speeding up the process of executing this master plan, the government is instead wasting time and resources on creating new plans," says D'Souza.
French company Groupe SCE was given the task of preparing DPRs for the mobility plan, the slum rehabilitation project at Camrabhat, the development of parks and other open spaces, and for the conservation of heritage. The reconstruction of water and sewerage networks was taken up by Shah Technical Consultants and the DPR for solid waste management was prepared by Tetra Tech India Ltd. Other agencies were tendered to clean up St Inez creek and set up the e-governance system.
"When the 2006 master plan had covered all the necessary development aspects, what was the need to hire a new international consultancy firm to create a new plan?" Asks mayor Surendra Furtado, alleging that 'Imagine Panaji' was nothing but a cosmetically-enhanced clone of HUDCO's old plan that has cost the taxpayers a whopping Rs 80 lakh.
He worries that Panaji will miss the bus, along with the Rs1,000-odd crore grant from the centre, to be sanctioned under the JNNURM scheme.
"Unless GSUDA submits these reports to the Union urban development ministry by August 31, we will not get any central funding to develop the city. This new draft plan is unnecessarily delaying the proceedings," he echoes D'Souza.
Architect Tulio de Souza lists other plans that disappeared into oblivion-the international film festival of India (IFFI)-inclined master plan presented by UK-based consultants, HOK, who were hired by the Goa state infrastructure development corporation (GSIDC) in 2004 to spruce up the riverfront and the comprehensive city traffic plan presented by the Charles Correa Foundation.
"I also recall several area-specific plans-there was one for the management of Miramar beach, a Mala lake redevelopment plan, a blueprint for a satellite market at Mala and one for the beautification of the Boca de Vaca spring. Some have been partly executed and others, like the Miramar beach plan, rejected outright," he says.
He points out that any holistic plan has to address the potential for growth, which is "a major concern for residents". "The 2011 census shows that the rural population has seen a negative growth, while the urban population of North Goa alone has increased by 44%. (Imagine Panaji) has failed to address Panaji's urban agglomeration that includes Merces, Renovadi, Morambi and Panelim."
"These out-growths of Panaji are areas which could be affected by urbanization and the city's normal growth pattern. A comprehensive plan should also look into the provision of adequate and affordable housing and other facilities to this buffer area," says de Souza. It is also important to supplement the plan with relevant policy decisions and bylaws and regulations, he adds.