They came, they found, they imagined

Goa: Found and Imagined

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By Frederick Noronha

Young Swedish professionals and researchers who visited Goa recently came not as mere tourists, but to attempt to understand the place and imagine where this tiny region’s strengths could take it.

Students of a post-Master’s inter-disciplinary course in Urbanism from the Royal Institute of Art at Stockholm looked at how Goa was coping with its challenges of participation, its water-economy, and tourism. Their work has just been published as a book titled ‘Goa — Found and Imagined: Possibilities, Potentials, Tips and Tools‘.

“Although their richness was far too deep and complex for us to embrace and to claim that we had become more than just acquainted with, we were struck by the Goans’ love for and engagement with their land,” say the co-authors of this 100-page book.

The book itself looks at the planning process in Goa and its far-from-easy recent attempts to involve the citizen, the potential of Goa’s water resources, a possible kind of tourism “that does not destroy Goa’s unique landscape”, and how Goa’s infrastructure systems could perform to meet citizens’ needs.

Says the Swedish Professor of Architecture Herietta Palmer in the introduction: “Each story points towards something already present but not yet working to its full potential. Each story is trying to say — listen up, there is another possible route, which doesn’t necessarily follow 8 Introduction mainstream ideas of modernization and development.”

Tracing the diverse attempts at getting a regional plan that could satisfy its citizens, the book notes that despite its many problems, yet this process was path-breaking. It says: “The process around Goa’s Regional Plan 2021 is unique in India’s history. The dialogue with Goa’s inhabitants is still ongoing. But how far can participation go?”

It traces the trajectory of this yet-incomplete and contentious issue, from the time the regional plan for Goa was put forth by state authorities in 2006. The interviews for these articles were conducted in November 2011 and February 2012. They describe part of the planning process on RP 2021, along with some reflections on it.

Architect Dean D’Cruz, one of the leading figures in the development of a new Regional Plan for Goa, is quoted saying that a constant dialogue with the people is crucial to succeed. In its first section, the book gives a brief insight into why the process was contentious, and how this played out.

For instance, it notes, thousands of comments on RP21 (Regional Plan 2021) were received from Goa’s residents. Most focused on the conversion of land from agricultural land or forest to settlement areas. But in Benaulim in Salcete taluka, proposals for new roads brought in an even stronger response. It looks at some issues arising from both the rural and semi-urban issues of Goa.

Ritu Prasad, architect and activist who participated in the working group that drafted Regional Plan 2021, however sees the issue differently. She says that while much is made of the 8,500 comments “to show that the citizens were involved”, the comments received almost exclusively focused on land conversion.’

Dr Claude Alvares, environmentalist, argues: “I try to tell everyone to be careful with the protests. The government would be very pleased if they could scrap the new plan entirely. Then we are back to square one with nothing.”

Researcher and activist Solano Da Silva was not too optimistic about the development of the Regional Plan. But, he says, the debate has the potential to create a new vision of development which is humane and environmentally sustainable.

There are other issues beyond planning though.

Goa draws appreciation for its attempts on watershed management from the team. One gets the hint that water could be converted into earnings, in a sustainable way, while some in the villages of Goa have managed to make “micro-watershed development… a reality”.

Farmer-musician Joao Santan Rebello, Government scientist Sanjeev R Chodankar (DSTE, Saligao), and the community workers of Velip Wada in Morpirla, local self-help groups and others are among the silent heroes emerging in its pages.

Besides taking a look at Goa’s “infra systems”, the vistors from distant Scandinavia look also at landfill issues. They try to understand how water serves better when distributed through a diversity of sources (as done in Goa, compared to Sweden), and the potential that local initiatives hold.

Towards the end of the book, the team takes an imaginative tour of what could be possible in Goa itself, throwing open some interesting and intriguing possibilities here.

Guesting is one of these… Can “heritage guesting” or even “work guesting” become a reality here, they ask, pointing to the possibility of making it more of a win-win situation for tourist and host. Wildlife guesting and agri guesting are also brought onto the agenda.

In this section, the co-authors of the book focus on agritourism, the potential of a ‘rice paddy retreat in St. Estevam’, and build a vision of how micro-initiatives can also promote entrepreneurship by sharing basic essential services.

“A unique urban-rural network is the basis of Goa’s urban structure. How can tourism help support this special way of life to secure resilient and sustainable development for the future?” ask the authors of this book.

They note that “while being India’s smallest state, Goa has also been the quickest to urbanize.” From the historic year of 2001 when 50% of Goa’s population was urbanized (just like the rest of the world) it further grew to a stunning 62% in 2011, while the rest of India remains at 31%. Compared with elsewhere in India, we’re reminded, in Goa, differences in living standards and literacy between urban and rural areas are not so striking.

The book has been co-authored by Nina Gunne and Nina Rahm; Ry Morrison; Maria Axelsson and Frida Eriksson; and Ulrika Lundgren under the coordination of Prof. Henrietta Palmer. Layout and design is by Leo Norgren, with photo contributions by others who “found and imagined” Goa.

On the last page, the book ends with a quote. It reminds us: “The future is already here — it’s just not evenly distributed.”

Goa: Found and Imagined
Possibilities, Potential, Tips and Tools
Gunne, Rahm, Morrison,Axelsson and Eriksson
2013. pp 100. Rs 200. Paperback. Goa,1556.

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