Panjim and the rest of Goa took pride when the third bridge over the River Mandovi was inaugurated in January and was then thrown open to traffic last month.
There was jubilation, there were smiles. Goa had done it, got a world class bridge that added new vistas to the city’s skyline and reduced the traffic snarls at the entrance to the State capital. But, did anyone at that time think of the cleanliness of the city? Perhaps, if as much attention had been paid to the city garbage problems, Panjim and Goa might have not faced the embarrassment they now have.
While Goa was gushing over the new bridge, a cleanliness survey was being conducted of the State’s urban areas and when the results were declared, not just Panjim, but every other municipal area in Goa fared badly. You can well say that the State failed the cleanliness test.
Already lagging far behind other States in meeting the open defecation free target, the State is now also a laggard where cleanliness is concerned. Panjim, the State capital, fell from 155th rank among cleanest cities that it held last year to 337 this year, a fall of 182 places. Ironically, Panjim in the previous year had bagged the Best State Capital Award for Innovation & Best Practices. Where did the innovation and practices disappear? Were they swept away in a corner and garbage dumped on them? Just look at how Panjim dropped: from 16 in 2016 to 90 in 2017 and 155 in 2018. The city is just not getting cleaner, it is getting dirtier compared to other cities in the country.
Further awkward answers came when staff of the Corporation of the City of Panaji claimed they have no idea of when the survey for the ranking was carried out by the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, and say that aren’t able to respond to the result unless they see that parameters on which the city was judged. The capital city has been tumbling continuously in its ranking of being amongst the cleanest cities in the country despite being selected for the ‘Smart City’ project under the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, and should have shown some improvement.
Yet, whatever the parameters, it is not just Panjim that has been ranked a lowly 337, other municipal areas in the State fared far worse, with none coming above the 800th rank. Cuncolim was ranked 829 followed by Mapusa at 847, Valpoi at 857, Bicholim at 858, Quepem at 877, Canacona at 894, Curchorem-Cacora at 909, Margao at 925, Pernem at 933, Sanguem at 948, Ponda at 969, Mormugao at 970 and Sanquelim at 1000. There is nothing to smile about here, only reasons to hang the head in shame, for a State that is smaller than many a district cannot keep its few urban areas, with populations of a few thousands in some cases, clean. For a quick comparison, Indore which was ranked number 1 for the third consecutive year has 85 wards and a population of 19.64 lakh, while Panjim with 30 wards has a population of 40,000. Most of the other towns in Goa have even smaller populations.
A small State in area, a small population, high literacy, these are factors that should have combined to make Goa the leader in cleanliness. What then has gone wrong? How have other States and cities succeeded and where is it that Goa has failed? These are questions that need answers. Garbage and cleanliness cannot be long-standing issues for which there are no solutions. If other cities and States can change, why can’t Goa? This is a failure of the local governing bodies as well as the State administration, and it needs to be corrected.