Goa requires more urban centres

By Cleofato A Coutinho
02 October 2012 17:27 IST

In much the same way as the world and our Country is becoming more urban, the local Goan population is moving to cities in search of better jobs opportunities and educational facilities for their children. It is expected that the urban areas are to have more than half of the world’s people. We Goans are not far behind. Though there is a cry to retain the village character of Goa’s hinterland, villagers are becoming city dwellers.   

Cities in Goa are growing with the influx from the villages. Canacona which had two assembly constituencies now has one. The old Margao constituency has a neighbouring Fatorda Constituency in its backyard as its satellite constituency. Last delimitation has seen certain parts of Margao and Fatorda going to Curtorim and Navelim constituencies. Certain villages like Kanaguinim in Quepem Taluka are deserted with almost entire populace shifting to Navelim. Certain wards of various villages are empty as locals shift to the cities. We have a large number of ghost villages in our hinterland. Similar is position is of the port town of Vasco da Gama and  capital city Panaji with satellite constituencies of Taleigao and Porvorim, Mapusa and Ponda are also developing similarly.

Cities and urban centers have become engines of national growth as the agricultural sector is declining in the country. It is said that nowhere in the world agricultural sector has grown beyond 4.5%. After the economic reforms (1991 onwards) industries and service sectors have been driving the Indian Economy. Bangalore and Hyderabad are shining examples of the post economic reforms development in the Country.

Urban centers with industry and service areas has led to an average 8% growth rate per annum over the old 5% growth (pre economic) reforms. The faster rate of growth has made it possible to address challenges of social sector. Education for the young is now a fundamental right. Rural employment is now statutorily guaranteed and even food security is on the anvil. Despite 2G, CWC and CG (Coal gate) the Indian state is pursuing these challenges of inclusive growth. It is sometimes argued that rate of growth of the economy is not indicative of the growth of its citizens but only of a minuscule minority. But the fact of the matter is that the Central Government could venture in these forbidden areas only due to the average growth being 8% or above even amidst adverse global scenario and economic melt down. Earlier the state resources were inadequate to venture in these areas. The 4-5% rate of growth could not meet the challenge.

We cannot also ignore that after 1991 that the faster rate of growth, there has been a reduction of poverty levels in the country. That the rich have grown richer is a different matter altogether! The state has also failed to extract its legitimate pound of flesh from the rich and also failed to protect its natural resources from being frittered away. That is lack of governance and accountability. 

The task force for regional plan for Goa records that more than 95% of the 700 engineering graduates leave Goa to seek a future. It records that “we intend to create a Goa that has greater economic prosperity. A Goa that Goans are not tempted to live --- and those who have left start thinking of coming back. “It further records “we must do this in a manner that does not endanger the fragile eco systems that make Goa what it is- the forests, the mangroves, the paddy fields, beaches and villages…” One of the prime issues of the regional plan was to deal with intra migration of Goans from midland and the ghats to the urban centers and coastal areas. That could be done with now growth centres and avoidance of over centralization of existing urban centres and coastal belt.

The movement against the Regional Plan 2011 led to Goans making out a case for retaining its unique identity and its countryside. The destruction of the countryside could be attributed to indiscriminate mining and building of apartments and Villas for those non Goans who wish to have a holiday home in this seaside destination State. The general mood in the state is to drive out Central University and National Institute of Technology along with Special Economic Zones!

It is claimed that besides the actual mining operations engaging thousands of workers, there are over 10,000 trucks and over 260 barges servicing the mining sector, the illegal mining both by encroachment and by excess mining is bound to lead to a moratorium. If the beach side tourism which had led to the high growth in real estate is also reversed-we will have to depend upon the time tested areas of manufacturing and service sector for which there must be more cities and urban centres.  

The Regional Plan Task Force has recommended three additional hubs to revitalize the midland areas and decongest the coastal belt - The Pernem hub in view of the proposed international airport at Mopa, the Dharbandora hub and the Quepem hub near Adnem in Quepem Taluka. These hubs were only indicative and would have to be finalized after taking into account various site analysis.  

Such hubs could be the new growth centers for Goa but that requires planning and innovation and support from the government and the citizenry. The railway route must also pass through the hinterland.

Retaining the countryside and at the same time creating urban centers as engines of growth without diluting the countryside and the agricultural sector is the challenge. Opposing all areas of development including industry and services shall only make us more and more dependable on NRI remittances. And how long can such economy survive?

Is it not possible to retain the countryside with innovative planning and at the same time have growth centers in this small state? The general mood of negativism must yield to pragmatism. The question that is always posed is development for whom? If fruits of development percolate down to all. 

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

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Cleofato A Coutinho

Cleofato Almeida Coutinho is a senior lawyer and one of the constitutional expert in Goa. A member of Law Commission of Goa, he also teaches at Kare College of Law in Madgao.

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