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17 Apr 2018 06:08am IST
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17 Apr 2018 06:08am IST
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According to census records there is alarming rise in the number of unoccupied dwelling units in Goa; Currently more than 22% of all residences in the State are empty


ODPs are essentially spatial or land-use plans created by demarcating zones which designate various activities on a city’s surface. These broadly include: settlement, commercial, institutional, agricultural and recreational uses. Each of these is further detailed into sub-zones which have varying FAR and height restrictions.

When planning a city the foremost task is to undertake a comprehensive assessment of the existing condition of the city, deeply understand its existing problems and recognise its strengths. Thereafter begins the crucial task of formulating a future vision for the city. The future vision must enjoy wide public support and address the existing problems of the city. Only after we have such a vision for the future of our cities can we then create a spatial plan or an ODP.

An ODP cannot emerge in abstraction but serves the purpose of translating the vision for the city into a detailed zoning plan. In other words, without a vision for the city an ODP makes no sense at all, and every zoning change proposed in an ODP must publically demonstrate that it furthers the vision for the city. 

Anarchic Planning; No vision for our cities

In contrast, and devoid of any planning rationale, we have in Goa ODPs being prepared without formulating a comprehensive vision for each urban area. While we have dedicated bodies for urban planning called PDAs none seem to actually engage in any planning! Instead the task of preparing an ODP is reduced to merely soliciting, receiving and processing individual requests for zone changes.

The Outcome: Disastrous urban spaces 

Take the latest Panjim ODP-2021 for instance; essentially created by first proposing two new zones SPS and SPC which permit 200 and 300 FAR respectively and then processing requests for zone changes. The ODP-2021 received 198 such requests of which 138 were approved i.e. 70% were approved.

These zone changes affected a total area of 1,86,280m2. However, it is only when relating each zone change with its respective FAR that one can grasp the true impact of the ODP. The Net FAR works out to 36,974,606 m2 in the ODP-2021 which is a 55% increase compared to the original zones and FAR (as per the previous ODP-2011 NFAR = 20,446,621 m2). 

Who benefits, who loses?

Eighty-one per cent of the massive Net FAR of ODP-2021 was allocated to commercial zones. Now this does not mean commercial activities will boom in Panjim but as is common knowledge in Panjim most of this would be used to build residential units. And further, many of these would be unoccupied. Census records show an alarming rise in the number of unoccupied dwelling units in Goa. Currently more than 22% of all residences in Goa are empty.

Many of these constitute second homes and investment choices. ODPs such as the Panjim ODP-2021 enable this form of ‘speculative urbanism’. This is also the reason why homes are becoming increasingly unaffordable for the average Goans. 

The latest Census 2011 classified 62% of Goa as being urban making it the most urbanised state in India. Urban theorists like Rahul Srivastava and others have argued that the form of urbanisation in Goa is unique; it unfolds as an urban network with a fantastic blend of the rural and the urban in which its inhabitants live in close proximity with agrarian systems and the wild places. This enables residents in Goa the possibility of a high quality of life.

Think about it; while being the most urban of all of India’s states people are drawn to Goa as it continues to exude an idyllic (but not backward) charm. If urban planning in Goa continues in ODP-mode it would actually be a disservice to Goa’s unique urbanity. 

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