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So far the two Smart City roads constructed in Panjim are a mixed bag. While the Smart City Mission has planted palms near the Campal parade grounds, the second Smart City road from Govinda Building to Govt High School does not have a single new tree planted

Rising temperatures and pollution, are two of the critical challenges that cities will face in the not so distant future. Does the Smart City Mission have a plan to control rising temperatures and pollution? So far we have witnessed only the ‘concrete face’ of the Smart City as executed in Panjim.

A city such as Panjim and the other four towns of Vasco, Margao, Ponda and Mapusa will experience a phenomenon known as the ‘urban heat island’ effect. This is due to the increasing concretisation and asphalt of the surfaces, which leads to increased heat absorption and retention of heat. Thus the urban areas becomes significantly warmer than the surrounding rural areas.

So far the two Smart City roads constructed in Panjim are a mixed bag. While the Smart City Mission has planted palms near the Campal parade grounds, the second Smart City road from Govinda Building to Govt High School does not have a single new tree planted. Panjim, which was converted into the Portuguese Capital in 1843, has many trees which were planted by the colonial rulers on most of the streets, which cool the city and absorb pollution till today. They also provide shade for buildings and for parking and prevent our vehicles from heating, which leads to increased use of air conditioners and further pollution.

In this regard, the most ideal avenue is the National Theatre avenue in Panjim. The lush shady rain trees on both sides of the road provide ample shade for car parking or standing by the city street and having a chat with friends. Similarly, the Dayanand Bandodkar avenue from Miramar to Panjim market is lined with rain trees which not only make driving a pleasure, but also cool the city and absorb pollution created by vehicles. The Smart City must take the National Theatre avenue and the Dayanand Bandodkar avenue as models for Smart Roads. Making concrete roads, putting concrete pavers and CCTV cameras does not constitute Smart Roads.

The state government or the Smart City mission has not bothered to replace the huge trees which have come down during previous monsoon. As a result, the specific areas experience intense head.

Increased heat can result in heat-related illnesses and fatalities, especially among vulnerable populations, such as the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions. Higher temperatures lead to higher energy consumption for air conditioning and cooling systems, straining energy resources and driving up costs. Excessive heat and rising temperatures will make life difficult for our future generation due to discomfort and decreased outdoor activities.

At the rate the present Smart City is executing its mission by only concretisation streets, it does not appear to have a plan to control pollution. Goa has the highest population-to-vehicle ratio. This problem will become a monster in the years to come, both in terms of city congestion and ease of life.

Air pollution from vehicle emission will lead to poor air quality and will become a major concern for public health. Besides, rising temperatures and air pollution, the Smart City mission will have to look at aspects of water pollution by preserving and cleaning the water bodies of the city. Why the cleaning of the festering St Inez creek not on the agenda of the Smart City mission is a sheer mystery?

The third major challenge which needs to be taken up by the Smart City Mission in Panjim is planning how to cope with rising sea levels, since Panjim was not only recovered from the sea, but is presently bounded by the sea and river for the most part. As climate change accelerates and sea levels continue to rise, cities have to take proactive steps to mitigate the impact and adapt to the changing environment.

The Smart City mission should have a comprehensive sea-level rise adaptation plan. It has to plan for storm water management to reduce flooding. The city could also revise its zoning and land use regulations to restrict new development in high-risk coastal areas and promote resilient construction practices. There cannot be a bigger disaster that government promoting the construction of the Captain of Ports Building in the Mandovi river.

The Smart City mission should seriously consider the above mentioned issues such as rising temperatures, pollution and rising sea levels, besides others which will pose serious challenges to the city in the near future. The Smart City mission should not be seen merely as a milking cow for commissions.

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Quelle/Source: O Heraldo, 14.10.2023

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