Parrikar plans futuristic makeover for Panaji

An open-air mall in the city centre, biodiversity parks and cycle routes that ring the city -- that`s what Goa`s capital of the future will look like.

Panaji: An open-air mall in the city centre, biodiversity parks and cycle routes that ring the city -- that`s what Goa`s capital of the future will look like if Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar has his way.

At the unveiling of the draft master plan -- his brainchild, Parrikar, who is the legislator for the city, took charge of showing the state`s movers and shakers the images and architectural plans which, he said, would make Panaji, a once sleepy, riverine town, a city that would leave people spell-bound.

"While most cities in India have settled into a state of urban decay, this holistic plan is an attempt to stall that rot in Panaji," Parrikar said at the unveiling here on Thursday.

Spanish consultants LKS Global, whose India-specific enterprise will be in-charge of the execution, has drawn the master plan. Officials said the firm was chosen from among 26 others. The expenditure will be decided when the draft master plan is finalised after taking into account public suggestions.

"Over months, our engineers have explored every nook and cranny of the city to identify areas that need improvement, in terms of transport system, traffic problems, sewage and solid waste management and conservation of landscape and heritage," Maria Mendizbal, chief architect of the firm, said during the course of her presentation.

With a population of just over a lakh and area of 36 sq km, Panaji has been the seat of power since colonial times, after a plague forced the Portuguese to shift camp from Old Goa, 12 km away.

With its quaint Luso-Indian architecture, an exotic Mediterranean-styled residential quarter, a summer palace of the erstwhile ruler, Adil Shah of Bijapur, the city was known for its quiet and calm environs. This changed with the real estate boom of the 1990s and the arrival of the round-the-clock offshore casinos which now ensure that a city which earlier dozed off at 9 pm never sleeps.

Unable to keep in tune with rapid urbanisation, slums, insufficient drainage and sewage systems, poor public transport system have now started inflicting a kind of fatigue on Panjim, as the city is colloquially called.

Streamlining roads and parking facilities, making the city skyline hip, tapping rivers for transport, an open-air mall, eco-friendly cycle tracks, expanding sewerage systems, garbage management and sprucing up water bodies top the agenda as far as the government`s brief to the Spanish consulting agency is concerned.

"The aim is to make the planning a holistic process and not piecemeal," says Parrikar.

Panaji Mayor Surendra Furtado was, however, not very impressed with the plan submitted by the consultants.

"What`s new with the plan? It is old wine in a new bottle. I have seen at least four such plans last year. Nothing concrete happened," Furtado said.


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