The most unsurprising statement of the current week was that of the PWD minister, giving no assurance on the matter of flooding in Panjim. What was surprising, however, was that he made such a statement.
It is rare, almost unheard of occurrence, for any government minister to admit that all is not well and that there will or could be problems.
Governments and politicians are known to promise that everything will be smooth. So what was it that made the minister admit to the possibility of floods?
While it would be presumptuous to answer that question, what we know now is that with the monsoons just about a fortnight away, the Smart City works undertaken are likely, perhaps even certain, to cause flooding problems in the state capital.
As citizens and residents of Panjim, we knew this. But in the official corridors, there was no admission of this. That admission has now come, finally, when the government probably saw the futility of attempting to deny the inevitable.
But, when citizens during the past months have been pointing out that the digging of roads would cause flooding of the city in the monsoon, why didn’t the government shake itself up from its slumber to do something about it?
Couldn’t the government have moved “smartly” at that time and attempted to prevent what is likely to occur? The possible flooding of Panjim, in particular, that the laymen could visualise, but the authorities and experts could not.
For the past six months and more, the residents of Panjim have been enveloped in dust clouds as the sewerage project under the Smart City programme was undertaken across the city simultaneously, instead of it being commenced in a planned and phased manner that was more practical and caused fewer problems.
Instead, some streets that were blocked in October 2022, remain blocked, even in May 2023, while others that have been dug up have been given a hasty coat of hot mix. Still others have been left with just mud filling up the dug portions.
If these remain in the same state, the monsoon will not just cause flooding. These streets will become dangerous for motorists, especially for two-wheelers, as they will become slippery.
The problems, therefore, are limited not just to the possible flooding but to other issues too.
When residents of the state capital were told to “Imagine Panaji” they never thought that what they would have to imagine were dug roads, dust clouds and possible flooding. Nevertheless, they’ve experienced the first two and can now imagine the third before it actually happens.
It was definitely an unsmart decision of the special vehicle called Imagine Panaji Smart City Development Limited (IPSCDL). And, people are facing the fallout of it today.
For that matter, the Smart City project for Panjim has been a saga of misplaced priorities, all through. Remember that a few years back, the erstwhile mayor of Panjim had said that the money spent on CCTV cameras could have been better utilised to put a garbage management system in place for the city.
The CCTV cameras are being made operational only this month, years after they had been proposed and planned.
Further, in February 2022, there came news that Panjim was poised to get a 24x7 water supply with SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) system approved by the Imagine Panaji Smart City Development Limited (IPSCDL).
In May 2023, parts of Panjim are struggling to obtain water for even a few minutes a day, leading to directions from the high court to release water for a minimum of three hours a day.
It’s almost as if everything that has been promised is not happening, or has been inordinately delayed, and that is just not smart.
The hopes of a transformation of Panjim for the better when it was selected for the Smart City project, have long since been shattered. What remains is the hope that it will not get worse.
Unless the Smart City planners and executors can turn around the situation, there will be little that is smart in Panjim.
The current situation does not instil hope that it will all change for the better. Can this change?
The smart Panjim we have been asked to imagine has dark clouds hovering over it, and these aren’t just rain clouds that will cause flooding, but those that prevent hope from shining through.