BY NANDKUMAR KAMAT
BY April 2011, Goa would have urban population reaching 60 per cent with a projected 70 census towns. The trend of urbanisation in Goa has defied all predictions after liberation. Whereas the rest of the country showed a growth of urban population from 18 to 28 per cent between 1961 to 2001, the figures for the same period for Goa were 15 and 50.
The post-1971 construction boom added half a million people to urban areas. All over the world urban societies are high consumers. They need more infrastructure, power, water supply. As they expand, natural resources within the city and on the outskirts are sacrificed. How the new municipal councils, going to take charge within next two months are going to assure and ensure sustainable management of their areas? The government has abandoned its’ responsibility to provide a sustainable urbanisation policy and urban development roadmap consistent with the norms set up by government of India and recommended by UN habitat. Without town plans and comprehensive development plans, the outline development plans and the regional plan have no meaning. But Goa has not prepared a single TP or CDP. Only the CCP has a broadbrush City development plan sponsored by JNNURM programme.
These 40-years-old approaches have now become outdated as per the new thinking by United Nations on planning of the sustainable urban habitats. Now there is more stress on building capacitance against global warming, climate change, natural catastrophes, better public health and sanitation, low carbon urban economies. Municipalities going to the polls would need a new paradigm, new planning and management ideas and new, learned, non-corrupt leadership. We need to see a competition amongst the candidates on politics of sustainable municipal planning and management. Voters and NGOs need to set up the agenda for prospective candidates and compel them to do their homework before they begin campaigning. Political parties backing their proxy candidates also need to understand the gravity of the situation if they wish to avoid a worst case scenario of urban anarchy after 5 years.
Urban Goa in 2015 would be unrecognisable. They need to develop a state level perspective of problems created by rampant and unsustainable urbanisation since 1971 instead of getting anxious about protecting their own electoral strongholds. Urbanisation is expediting along two corridors in Goa-along the Pernem-Mapusa-Porvorim-Panaji-Bambolim-Ribander-Old Goa-Verna-Nuvem-Margao-Navelim-Cuncolim north-south axis and the Marmagoa-Sancoale-Cortalim-Margao-Ponda-Shiroda-Sanvoredem-Quepem west-east axis. Urban clusters would be prominent along Verem-Nerul to Calangute, Bicholim-Mayem-Amona-Marcela-Sanquelim-Honda and Bogmalo to Benaulim. With meagre urban infrastructure these areas would be the hotspots of problems. Development in Karwar and spurt in tourism between Agonda to Palolem would be major driving force behind urbanisation of Canacona. Canacona municipal area with fewer voters than the VP of St Cruz would witness unprecedented growth after completion of proposed Talpona and Galjibaga bridges.
The next 5 years would be crucial and critical for the urban areas and urban population in Goa. Urban demography is palpably changing. Towns are now filled with economically active migrant population. The urban scrapyards and the booming roadside trade are indicators of the new economic spaces found by the migrants. Urban culture and urban influences are rapidly diffusing in rural Goa. DTH satellite dishes can be found on the rooftops of houses in remote villages like Gaudongrim. Urbanisation in Goa is now a completely irreversible process. A haphazard, gaudy, unsustainable urban continuum would be seen in the next 5 years between Pernem to Cuncolim and Marmagoa to Sanguem. The conflicts between the 13 municipal councils with surrounding villages would increase as the urban entropy begins to impact rural areas. One indicator is the opposition by village communities to accept the municipal solid waste. New conflicts would arise as the services in municipal areas such as stockyards, godowns, garages, vehicle washing stations, dance floors, tennis courts, farm houses begin to spill over in the villages.
Goa’s municipal areas include high spending urban consumers. One indicator of this is the growing number of shopping complexes and superstores, beauty parlours, ice-cream parlours, florists and private gymnasiums. Panaji and Margao rank in top 55 among 3000 towns in India in total bank deposits. This is good news for Goa’s economy. But to match the affluence where is the requisite minimum infrastructure?
Panaji is rapidly disposing off its’ natural carbon sinks. Margao’s traffic congestion shows no sign of solution. The new paradigm of sustainable municipal management need to include the larger picture-how Panaji and Mapusa can grow together sustainably? How Bicholim and Sanquelim need to factor in growth around Marcela and Honda? What’s the urban future of an ancient trading centre and major horticultural commodity trading centre like Ponda? Shouldn’t Ponda factor in peripheral industrial growth with positive and negative spillover effects from Curti to Shiroda? Shouldn’t Cuncolim, Quepem, Cacora, Sanvordem-Curchorem and Sanguem need an integrated urban development plan since this area witnesses a fair degree of economic symbiosis within the common command area of Selaulim project? Pernem’s urban future is tied to the new bridge over Terekhol, economic development in Banda, Kudal, Sawantwadi and the way outgrowth from Mapusa reaches its’ borders.
The municipal councils going to polls have scored poorly in delivering the goods. The elections would be fought with same old issues without any concrete plans for next 5-10 years. A major responsibility lies with the urban higher educational institutions –the higher secondary schools and colleges to seize the initiative through their political science, sociology, economics and geography departments, students councils and forums to initiate proper debate on the present status and future of the urban ecosystem within which they exist. This is a real challenge because our higher education has failed to generate better ideas of good local urban governance. If the urban students come forward to discuss the real issues and problems in their municipal areas they would be initiating a new process of political reconstruction and regeneration in Goa.
Considering the small geographical size of the municipal areas and small voter’s population, students have the economies of scale to their advantage. Unless the young, educated urban voters of Goa take the lead, I see the history repeating itself once again. Well-planned and well-managed urbanisation can pay rich dividends. Cities attract people like magnets. All the municipal areas going to polls have their intrinsic strength. They have capacity to prosper, create business and employment opportunities and generate wealth sustainably and equitably. Goa would need a new municipal leadership to turn the tide of urbanisation in favour of real progress and prosperity. But where are the leaders? (concluded).