04 Aug 2022  |   05:36am IST

Panjim reeling under misgovernance

Joe D’Souza

Although the history of Panjim, the capital city of Goa, is modest and it all started as a fishing hamlet of the properous Taleigao agricultural village, with time, it grew steadily to be the commercial market place for the surrounding regions of Tiswadi.

This essay isn’t about tracing the rich history, geography and politics of Panjim but to bemoan as to how this once stunningly heritage city with spectacular housing complex at Campal, Fontainhas and Central Panjim, embraced by the crystal clear waters of River Mandovi was allowed to fester, deteriorate and degrade into a stinking dirty casino enclave with garbage, rodents, touts, goondas luring tourists in and out of the casinos.

The government of India under both political formations, be it the Congress in 2006 and the BJP in 2014, with Manohar Parrikar as Chief Minister of Goa and Narendra Modi as our Indian Prime Minister showed special interest and provided funds to help Panjim to grow up into being a smart city.

Digambar Kamat as our then Chief Minister made Manohar Parrikar as Chairperson of the sub-committee to allocate and disperse funds from the JNNURM central mission under the blessings of both Manmohan Singh as our Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi as the UPA Chief. Sadly, Nandkumar Kamat, Patricia Pinto and myself were unable to execute the ambitious JNNURM mission initially and later on Parrikar too with his saffron brigade of advisory team kept Panjim from being bad to worse. Not to exclude, Atanasio Monserrate and Jennifer Monserrate were also involved in the Smart city campaign, but disastrously, Panjim still sunk further downhill to what Panjim today is for us all to see and bear. The cleaning up of gutters of and on and collecting garbage and dumping it in one place around Bainguinim and around Tiswadi seems to be the current solution as the site acquired to build the plant for garbage segregation and treatment in 2007 whilst Sachin Ambe was the CCP garbage treatment manager cum engineer did precious nothing to buffer and hold on to the SWM site at Bainguinim.

Amusingly if one visits the present ambitious Kadamba housing complex at Old Goa, it is now a residential area for the rich and famous not only from Goa but from other parts of India too. This essay again is not of controversies surrounding the illegal bungalow at Old Goa but about the need for Panjim to have a state of the art solid waste Management facility for Panjim.

Today, our Mayor Rohit Monserrate is in legal wrangle, having nominated country bumpkins as nominated corporators or councillors as if there weren’t technically and scientifically qualified persons in and around Panjim itself better suited to implement the goodness of the SMART city mission and preventing it from turning out as a major scam and financial fraud.

Look at Panjim today. Our once pristine St Inez creek is stinking of sewage released by illegal houses built along the banks of the creek, which we all know are the vote bank of the politicians who govern us. Sadly, we Panjimites, prefer to voice our grievances in city bars or the four walls of our comfortable residences as I have been a witness to the fact that the Panjim residents as well as our city fathers never ever attend strategic meetings called by urban development central as well as local ministers and officials. Mhaka Kiteak poddlam is our famous implemented adage. Hence we all live and tolerate messy living and lifestyle in Panjim.

It must be acknowleged that Herald the Voice of Goa has been voicing these serious concerns, both in print as well as via Herald TV channel. The Group Editor along with the Head of Herald TV had recently asked me to join a serious debate on the Smart city action plan for the future but heavy rainfall and flooded streets restrained me from participating as I am suffering from diabetic foot with my toes being amputated and still recovering. 

Yes Panjim today needs a serious makeover. Drugs, goons and touts have made the sacred Mandovi waterfront into a noisy, rowdy, smoky zone. It is the wearer, who knows exactly where the shoe pinches and as I stay just 25 metres away from the Mandovi water front, I know I find it difficult to sleep and rest at nights as noisy gamblers walking in and out of casinos, touts and pushers of drugs are all around my residence each and every day and police are their worthy accomplices. Panjimites are also not aware that the Government of Goa is building a monstrous terminal building in the CRZ-IV area within River Mandovi on and near the Panjim jetty. The thousands of tonnes of concrete was poured on the bio productive floor and bed of River Mandovi to allow stilts and piers, about 260 of them, to destroy the fish nurseries, mangroves and the bed for oysters, clams, shell fish and crabs. Let alone other marine species like barnacles. 

No doubt, the tasty estaurine fish along the Mandovi coast is absent. We don’t see Indian salmon or gobros anymore in River Mandovi. Yes thanks to Valmiki Naik a social worker in Panjim, who has his court case in the National Green Tribunal and it is a relief that Advocate Laxmi and her boss Adv Nigel Costa Frias are fighting tooth and nail to ensure River Mandovi is not stripped off its pristine glory by casinos, feeder boats, terminal buildings in our Mandovi river and help us to allow swimming, fishing and boating for us and the generations to come. 

(The writer is a retired University professor and an environmental activist)