Ruins, a site for recreation?

A further insight into the discourse on the situation and vision for Nossa Senhora Do Carmo, Chimbel.

Based on a talk at CCF by;
Fernando Velho, Architect 
along with
Erica De Mello, Student at Goa College of Architecture

This blog is the last in a series around the chapel of Mount Carmel, in Chimbel, a village in Goa. The context of Chimbel village can be understood from the blog ‘A Search for Commons in the Pressure of Growing Cities’ part 2 of the blog titled ‘Nossa Senhora Do Carmo’ explains the role of this Chapel in the settlement and the steps a local architect, Fernando Velho has taken, in tandem with the villagers of Chimbel to breathe new life into the space.

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Model of a design intervention overlayed with the ruins of Nossa Senhora Do Carmo
Source: Erica De Mello /  Goa College of Architecture

To stir up some imagination in the public consciousness, Fernando Velho invited Erica De Mello to present at the Charles Correa Foundation, Erica is a student of the Goa College of Architecture (GCA) who had recently proposed a design intervention in this very site. Erica’s design approach was guided by Mr. Sameep Padora who was a visiting professor at GCA, under the Charles Correa Chair. Erica’s proposal for the site was to turn it into an artists residency.

front-elevation.jpgArtistic representation of how the proposed structure would look.
Source: Erica De Mello /  Goa College of Architecture

Ruins with an Alternate Future

Erica spoke about approaching the existing structure through layers, in contrast to “follies” in English landscape, for example, the Capel Manor in England, where the designer constructed an artificial ruin, in contrast, here in Chimbel one can find an existing ruin. Erica tried to approach the structure and “to create within ruin”. Her proposal entailed:

  1. Structural stabilization of the existing ruins.
  2. Reconstruction, through a lightweight frame that gave the essence of the original space. 
  3. A public space which would have exhibition zones and facilities for the community.  
  4. Living and working spaces for the artists in residence.

iso.gifAnimation of the various design approaches, overlayed.
Source: Erica De Mello /  Goa College of Architecture

The proposed design would have various features which express reverence to the ruin while still creating conducive space for artists. 

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Representations of the spaces within the proposed design
Source: Erica De Mello/  Goa College of Architecture

Discussions and Deliberations

The discussion after the talk was lively and interesting. Former Chief town planner of India Prof. Edgar Ribeiro commended the Chimbel Villagers for approaching the issue in a bottom-up approach and getting the support of the ward councillor (Pancha). 

Edgar also clarified the terminology of an ‘archaeological park’. The Town and Country Planning Office, New Delhi envisioned this zone for places where there were a large number of important national monuments protected by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in a fixed radius. Mehrauli was the first such archaeological park where Prof. Nalini Thakur from School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi oversaw the entire process. In the Regional Plan 2021, Old Goa is denoted as an Archaeological park because there are 14 ASI monuments in a close radius.

13-Chimbel Commons.jpgProf. Edgar Ribeiro explaining the vision for an archaeological park.
Source: Lester Silveira / The Balcaö

Arminio Ribeiro asked the Chimbel residents about their vision for the space. The residents discussed the possibility of preservation of the structure, and the amount of development they envisioned for this space.

The villagers recalled memories of feasts and christenings which used to happen at the site long after it was abandoned. A question arose as to why the church was eventually abandoned by the villagers. 

Following the talk, a leader of the delegation of Chimbel residents, Mrs. Ana Gracias, asked Prof. Edgar Ribeiro and the CCF team if we could sit and discuss the issue in a private meeting. This meeting happened on the 29th of May. The meeting was attended by the leaders of the Mount Carmel Restoration Forum – a group formed from Chimbel residents, a priest from the Archdiocese of Goa, Edgar Ribeiro, Fernando Velho, and a few other architects. 

In the meeting, The following steps were explored in regards to the way forward for the preservation of the structure. The ground reality is that the government does not see any site as heritage unless it finds mention in one of the State drawn plans, in this case, the site must reflect in the Goa Regional Plan 2031. There could be three possible approaches to get the site demarcated here.

Approaches towards conservation 

1. As a National Protected Monument

It is extremely unlikely for this particular site to become a monument to be protected by the Central Act- ‘The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act (or AMASR Act) , 1958’. It is not of national importance and the ASI presently protect over 3650 monuments. 

2. As a State Protected Monument

There was discussion to list this site as a state protected monument and the villagers had already petitioned the Directorate of Archives and Archaeology (DAA) to take this case forward. The CCF team however feel that  in listing the site as a state protected monument, the DAA becomes another important decision maker in any proposal for re-use of the site. This means any conservation effort would not only need permission from the owners of the site (Provedoria) but any maintenance or conservation done to the monument, would be subject to restrictive measures of ‘Restoration’ put forth in the ‘The Goa Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Amendment) Act, 2010’

3. Get the site on the list for Conservation.

The  ‘Goa (Land Development and Building Construction) Act’. in section 6B.2.C has a section titled ‘List of Buildings and sites of Historic and Aesthetic Importance in State of Goa to be notified under these regulations’

There is merit in listing the site as conservation instead of preservation because the site can be developed out of the restrictive definitions within the ‘The Goa Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Amendment) Act, 2010’ , while still having to go through checks and balances put in place by the Conservation Study Committee of the Town and Country Planning Department, Goa.

07.jpgMeeting between Prof. Edgar, Fernando, Clergy, and Chimbel residents on 29th May 2019 at the Charles Correa Foundation.

Vision for the site

The meeting concluded with the residents and architects contemplating a vision for the site in the near future. A consensus was reached to turning the 4000 square meters (that encompass the ruins and the access to them) into a park for Chimbel Village. Structural preservation would be implemented on the ruins and the rest of the space be notified as green space in the Regional Plan for Goa 2031.

In this regard the Charles Correa Foundation has written a letter in support of this initiative to the Minister of Town and Country Planning, Goa. On the 21st of June 2018, the Minister accepted the request of the Chimbel residents, citing the Charles Correa Foundation’s letter as documentation for significance of the site. 

The Bigger Picture

Since 1984, in the state of Goa, no new structures have been listed for conservation. With the success of this initiative, the CCF team believes a precedent has been set. A successful listing and conservation of Nossa Senhora Do Carmo have illustrated that a building of heritage value deserves to be, and can be conserved through public demand. 

In the context of  Heritage sites in Goa, both ancient and relatively contemporary being threatened. And with certain elements in the State making a case for the demolition of one of the few equitable, civic buildings in the capital city of Goa, Panaji – Kala Academy, we believe, now more than ever it is important for us to be watchful and work to conserve our heritage spaces.

Do you know of a monument or site in your locality that deserves recognition? Write to us on connect@charlescorreafoundation.org and we can advise you on the way forward. 

The Correa Map

The Charles Correa Foundation is proud to publish a map of his work. This map plots buildings designed by Correa in his six decades of practice; projects built worldwide, though many of them in India.

We believe that the theories discussed by Charles Correa in his many writings can be best understood through his built work. We hope that this map can help interested visitors locate these buildings, visit them, and understand them in their context.

In case the map or relevant cover images fail to load, you may have to clear your browser cache: First, ensure that the browser is open and selected, and press Ctrl-Shift-Delete (Windows) or Command-Shift-Delete (Mac), then you may refresh the page and view at your convenience.

The list is arranged chronologically and buildings are tagged by typology.

Final Colour Swatch for Z-Axis 2018
Commercial            Leisure                   Housing                   Institutions           Urbanisation

There are yet a few projects by Correa that we know were built, but due to rapid urbanisation all around, we are now unable to locate. They are:

  • Plutonium Plant, Mumbai, Maharashtra
  • Lalbhai House, Ahmedabad, Gujarat
  • Humanities Department, Vallabh Vidyanagar, Anand, Gujarat
  • Suhrid Geigy – Laboratory and Processing Plant, Mumbai, Maharashtra
  • Palm Avenue House, Kolkata, West Bengal
  • Sen-Raleigh Polytechnic, Asansol, West Bengal
  • Thakore House, Mumbai, Maharashtra
  • Carbide Battery Plant, Hyderabad, Telangana
  • Dutta House, New Delhi
  • Ferreira House, Mumbai
  • Menezes House, Pune, Maharashtra, 
  • Gobhai House, Golvad, Dahanu, Maharashtra

If you could help us locate these buildings, please send us a recent image and a location pin to research@charlescorreafoundation.org with the subject “CCA Map: name of building 

Also, please let us know over email or in the comments below, if you think we have left out any of his built projects. We hope this map will grow to become an inventory of the many buildings that Charles Correa designed.

Nossa Senhora Do Carmo

Do the ruins of an 18th-century chapel and convent feature in the aspirations of a village, under pressure from the growing city?

Based on a talk at CCF by;
Fernando Velho, Architect 
along with
Erica De Mello, Student at Goa College of Architecture

In the previous blog ‘A Search for Commons in the Pressure of Growing Cities’ the problems and pressures on the Goan village of Chimbel were illustrated. Within that context, there arose a need for a public space that could serve as a commons for the village. 

Amidst the fight for a better quality of life for the people of Chimbel lies the ruins of the Chapel of Nossa Senhora do Carmo – a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Carmel. The site has been abandoned since the 1950s, but citizens recall an annual festival that continued to be celebrated, among the ruins, up until the 1980s.

The site is incredibly important not just historically, but also culturally, because it was one of the first convents run and led by clergy who were native Goans. The building is a stunning example of a specific style of architecture known as the Goan Mannerist style, a very late interpretation of Renaissance architecture, influenced by Portuguese naval architecture and executed by local artisans. 

The original owners of the site were a group known as the Tertiary Carmelites. They were a local Goan religious order who occupied the convent till 1835. After the expulsion of the religious orders from Goa in 1835, the property was seized from the Tertiary Carmelites and handed over to the Santa Casa da Misericórdia, the precursor of today’s Provedoria, (a semi-government institute for public assistance). The convent was then re-purposed as a home for destitute women and girls. In the 1930’s, Goa’s first mental health hospital was also set up at the site

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View of the nave of the chapel from outside.
Source: Fernando Velho

The ruins cover an area of approximately 2,500 square meters and occupy a site of over 8.6 acres, the site is full of natural vegetation including many old large trees.

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Model of the ruins of Nossa Senhora Do Carmo
Source: Erica De Mello / Goa College of Architecture 

Fernando Velho and Dr. Sidh Mendiratta, supported by Fundação Oriente and the Goa College of Architecture (GCA) studied the ruins, prepared detailed existing and reconstructed drawings. The report of this study and the drawings are available at the CCF, Fundação Oriente, and GCA Libraries. 

The impact of Fernando and his colleagues’ efforts has been highly inspirational, a reporter named Paul Fernandes took up the cause of the chapel and has written many articles in the news. The Goa Heritage Action Group & other independent platforms joined in a social media campaign to raise awareness around this site. These efforts have collectively led to some Chimbel residents banding together to make a collective, known as the Mount Carmel Restoration Forum. 

The site has been pinned on google maps, however, there is a wall around the perimeter and people cannot visit it without permission from the Provedoria. Nonetheless, interested people may view the site and leave favorable reviews.

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Drone image of Indiranagar Chimbel, the density of the settlement can be observed and inadequate open space, compared to the population is noticed.
Source: Dennis Figueiredo, URBZ

Fernando highlighted some of the developmental pressures on Chimbel and he argues that:

“In the village of Chimbel you will struggle to find a single public bench for people to sit on”

Chimbel village needs an equitable public space, one where children from Indiranagar can come and play with children from the old village, a space without discrimination. If not for us then at least for the next generation. But such a space cannot be superimposed on the residents, as Jane Jacobs (1961) states: “Parks are not automatically anything” it is only when people accept public space that it becomes truly useful. 

Therefore in the case of Chimbel, can this space be one of importance? As illustrated in the previous blog  ‘A Search for Commons in the Pressure of Growing Cities’  Chimbel is a heavily divided village, It needs a public space, and that space should be one that is inclusive to residents from both the Old Village and Indiranagar, one with a history of public use, and one with heritage value? Can that space be Nossa Senhora Do Carmo

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Fernando Velho addressing the audience.
Source: Lester Silveira/ The Balcaö

The Charles Correa Foundation has also come on board to provide mentorship and technical guidance to the Chimbel residents. The Foundation has significant resources on heritage grading and conservation. The Foundation is also bringing in experts like Prof. Edgar Ribeiro who understand both the legislation and a sensitive way to take this project further. This will be ideated in the next blog titled ‘Ruins, a site for recreation?’

Further Reading

Paul Fernandes Articles on N.S. Do Carmo

  1. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/goa/chimbels-ruins-with-church-facade-on-archaeology-radar/articleshow/68662042.cms
  2. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/goa/mt-carmel-ruins-have-tourism-scope-save-it-chimbel-locals/articleshow/66092680.cms

State Department of Archives and Archaeology takes notice of the ruin:

http://englishnews.thegoan.net/story.php?id=50351

Article on the public forum in the Goan Everyday Newspaper:

http://englishnews.thegoan.net/story.php?id=51729

CCF’s Project on Heritage Listing

https://charlescorreafoundation.org/2019/05/25/panajis-forgotten-resource-old-buildings/

Prof. Edgar Ribeiro’s talk on development in Heritage wards

https://charlescorreafoundation.org/2019/02/22/participatory-development/

Part 1 of this blog

A Search for Commons in the Pressure of Growing Cities

This blog is the first part of a trilogy about a village, its residents, and the ruins of a chapel. The Charles Correa Foundation has been actively involved in assisting the villagers in their project, and our combined efforts have recently yielded positive results. You can read about it on the news section of our website or Aliya Abreu’s article in the Goan Everyday.



As in most of urban India, Goa too is presently undergoing a transformation – large scale development projects are visible everywhere and the older rural and urban fabric is being frayed and reformed in the process. One construct that has transferred well from the past to the present is that of the commons. This is evidenced in the way planners and architects often envision cities. They allocate and provide tracts of land designated into public open spaces. Ebenezer Howard (1898 ) introduced the concept to create commons while planning built space. This may account for the quiet acceptance within select urban townships of a balance around built structures and open spaces. 

Townships and built complexes are one thing, existing villages are another. But what of the in-between? The spaces between urban and rural are fast disappearing and how do we find commons for communities as a whole? Jan Gehl (2008)  says, “Cultures and climates differ all over the world, but people are the same. They will gather in public if you give them a good place to do it.” We have to pause and consider spaces outside the built landscape or rather think about the commons for settlements and spaces in between urban and rural. 

Let us take the case of a village called Chimbel in Goa. Chimbel is a settlement situated five kilometres from Panjim, the capital of Goa, south of the Mandovi river. The original settlement of “old Chimbel” pre-dates Portuguese occupation in Goa. 

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Map showing estimated boundaries of the villages in between Old Goa and Panaji in the 18th Century.

Chimbel in the throes of development

Villages like Chimbel, Panelim, Ribandar, Santa Cruz and Merces (en route to Panjim city) became important as the residences of administrators and builders of the Portuguese capital of Panjim in the 18th century. It must be noted that the shift of the capital from Old Goa to Panjim took almost 70 years to be completed enabling the growth of these villages.

Over the next two centuries, Chimbel continued to function as a satellite of Panjim. The old village presently has around 6000 residents and the settlement area is spread over 4,20,000 square meters.

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Chimbel Old Village
Source: URBZ: https://www.flickr.com/photos/urbzoo/32023556550/in/photostream/

In the early 1980s, the government acquired and allotted 66,000 square metres of land (named Indiranagar) on the fringe of Chimbel to settle a large number of migrants who had been called in, to work on development projects like the Mandovi bridge and infrastructure for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). 

The settlement of Indiranagar now hosts more than half of the 17,000 residents of Chimbel, in tiny dwelling units with struggling services and an absence of an open space.

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A lane in Indiranagar
Source: URBZ: https://www.flickr.com/photos/urbzoo/32023556550/in/photostream/

The recently completed Panjim-Old Goa expressway on the plateau, just a couple of kilometres uphill from the village, has led to a series of luxury gated colonies and expanded vehicular use. This comes from the fact that despite Goa is India’s smallest state, the coastal landscape and unique cultural identity has made it a major tourist destination for most Indians, and a retirement or second home aspiration for those who can afford it. This has led to rampant development of real estate, mostly hospitality and second homes.

This situation presently leaves the state and it’s locals in an awkward position for there are almost three ‘visitors’ to the state to every local. 

Row villas

Serenity row villas, just uphill from Chimbel village.
Source: http://www.classifiedsgoa.com/serenity-avenue-luxury-villas-kadamba-plateau—goa-id-6603

So, what one now sees in Chimbel is three distinct housing situations: The gated colonies, the original village and Indiranagar; marked by inequity based on social class and identity. This inequity compounds itself when it comes to open space: in Indiranagar there is no space for an open area, children play in the gullies; there are no public benches or public spaces in the old village. Yet, in some of the gated communities, each villa has its own pool!

                     Old Chimbel Grain        Indiranagar Grain       Gated Community Grain
Source: Google Earth

Triangulating the present Chimbel context and surrounding areas 

We are now presented with a context that has three settlements. Each defined by a specific social and economic background, each with a distinct grain and hard access boundaries between them. 

Google map overlay inequity.jpg

Diagram showing the boundaries and inequality between the three housing situations in Chimbel.

In governance of Chimbel this complex situation is treated unidimensionally. There is a single Panchayat whose representatives are predominantly from the ‘‘old village’’ who must take into account the needs of distinctly diverse populations and habitats. Within this ‘‘unified’’ space of Chimbel the matter of the commons must be considered. Space allocation is impossible in the traditional (Howardian) imagination; especially with such heavy pressures of development. This leaves the village of Chimbel searching for a common space. In a  difficult situation like this, how and where could such a space be found?  

Stay tuned for the next two installments on Chimbel, you can get updates: either on social media or subscribe to our mailing list here.

 

Further Reading:

Ebenezer Howard
Howard, E. “Garden Cities of To-Morrow” Swan Sonnenschein & Co., Ltd, 1902

 

Jan Gehl
Gehl, J. “Cities for People” Island Press, 2010
Walljasper, J. “The Rise and Fall and Rise of Great Public Open Spaces” 

Developmental Pressures on Chimbel
Flyovers
IT Park
Times of India editorial on Indiranagar

URBZ Blog on Indiranagar Settlement

Cover image by Dennis FigueIredo

Panaji’s forgotten resource: old buildings

The CCF team talks about heritage in Panaji, and CCF’s 2014 Heritage Listing Project.

 

As Goa’s capital, the city of Panaji draws tourists for attractions that are uniquely its own: its heritage precincts and structures. As observed over recent decades, however, unregulated developments within the heritage areas fail to respect the context. These precincts and structures lose their heritage value when new developments overpower the visual fabric of heritage neighbourhoods.

There is a clear need for conservation of the precincts. According to the Archaeological Survey of India, “conservation” means “the processes through which material, design and integrity of the monument are safeguarded in terms of its archaeological and architectural value, its historical significance and its cultural or intangible associations.”

The Goa (Regulation of Land Development and Building Construction) Act 2008, passed by the Legislative Assembly of Goa, mandated the grading of listed buildings, precincts or conservation zones in the Goa, initiated by the Conservation Committee. It was decided that it would be mandatory to indicate a grade for every listed building or listed precinct or conservation zone.  

IMG_7260A need for a notified heritage listing of structures and precincts in Goa had been recognised.

In 2014, CCF conducted a documented study on Heritage Listing in Panaji. The listing and grading project was commissioned by the Department of Town and Country Planning, Government of Goa. The purpose of the documentation of heritage buildings in Panaji was to notify structures of heritage value, thus producing a reference for protection of heritage buildings in Panaji.

The study identified, mapped, listed and graded heritage structures based on a survey conducted to note the historic and architectural significance of a structure along with its contribution to a heritage streetscape. The heritage areas include: Sao Tome, Fontainhas, Mala, Portais, CBD (Central Business District), Altinho, Campal and Ribandar.

The survey conducted was based on detailed inventory-making of each building with various parameters. The information gathered on heritage structures include observing the access, ownership of the property, usage, style and architectural features. It also involved examining the materials used and making an overall assessment of the condition, which would help to understand the threat to the building. With a team of project consultants, the structures were then graded based on their Historic, Architectural, Cultural and Streetscape value.

listing1

Structures which have high value under all the above criteria are listed as Grade I. Similarly, structures having values in lesser criteria are listed as Grade II, III and IV accordingly. Based on the grade, the activity of protection for the building is recommended by the Goa Land Development Regulations 2010.

listing2

Based on the research and documentation, CCF created a set of maps and guidelines to document important heritage structures in the city.

140903_Listing and Grading of Heritage Structure in Panaji-51

140903_Listing and Grading of Heritage Structure in Panaji-25

In total, around 900 buildings were documented as part of the study. With the increasing awareness of the significance of conservation in recent years, the heritage list plays a crucial role in framing guidelines for upcoming developments in heritage precincts in Goa.

Heritage listing is an important tool to indicate way-forward steps for conservation of heritage structures in a city. Are the heritage structures in your city or district being conserved? If not, are they on the notified conservation list? What can we, as citizens, do to ensure that significant-but-forgotten heritage structures get notified? Comment below with your ideas!

IS OUR CITY ANY GOOD?

A forum for citizens to understand and discuss the city.

 

“In this dependence on maps as some sort of higher reality, project planners and urban designers assume they can create a promenade simply by mapping one in where they want it, then having it built. But a promenade needs promenaders.”

-Jacobs, J. ‘The Life and Death of Great American Cities’ (1961)

 

Throughout our architectural education and our professional life we as architects live and strive to make space better. We toil to design buildings, spaces and systems that people should use in a certain way to improve their quality of life. This top-down approach has led to many city-centric designs that are effective on paper but often fail in the eyes of the public. A part of the problem is that the design community has fallen into a rut of “the people should…” instead of trying to understand what it is that the people actually do.

Good City is an experiment through dialogue; in the city, with citizens, and stakeholders. It aims to undertake participatory exercises with citizens and bridge the gap between designers, government and citizens. The forum may serve as a platform to mediate between development and conservation, public projects and private interest, all in the vision of a better city for us all.

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Good City Meet 1 – Bookworm Library, Mala, Panaji

The first meeting brought together people of various backgrounds—a pharmacist, an artist, designers, architects and a policy strategist. Held in Bookworm library on a Sunday, the 5th of May 2019, the meet provided a platform for participants to vocally express what the city meant to them, and what this group can do as a collective to better understand the city. Short-term and long-term goals were envisioned, one of which is representing ideas on a ‘good’ city through visual media: photography, videography, drawings and writing.

Meet 2 02

Good City Meet 2 – Charles Correa Foundation, Fontainhas, Panaji

The second meet was held at the Charles Correa Foundation, on a Friday, the 10th of May 2019. Participants discussed the Foundation’s photoblog titled, ‘Late-Night Stroll, Anyone? Assessing Safety in Panaji’s Streets’. In the photoblog, the CCF team approached the dimension of safety in Panaji’s streets through the concepts written by urbanist Jane Jacobs in her famous book ‘The Death and Life of Great American Cities’. This prompted the discussion of urban theories postulated by Jane Jacobs, and their relevance based on citizens’ observations in Panaji and Mapusa.

A key takeaway was the need for engagement with diverse sections of the public in order to understand a holistic perception of good urban space.

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Good City Event – Jardim, Garcia D’Orta, Panaji

The third meet took the form of a social experiment, based on a suggestion to talk to citizens in the Municipal Garden. On 11th May, a children’s event prompted a large turnout which was ideal for a mood-mapping exercise with children and their parents. Using a colour-coded system ranging from Green (very positive response to a space) to Pink (very negative response to a place), participants of the exercise responded to spaces in the vicinity by placing Post-Its on a map of the area.

IMG_20190511_172126121.jpg

Good City Event – Jardim, Garcia D’Orta, Panaji

With at least 40 children and 20 adults participating in the exercise, a significant amount of data was gathered, including the ages of the participants and their reasons for liking or disliking the spaces. The next step is to repeat the exercise with larger sections of people and analyse the assimilated data.

What do you think makes a ‘good’ city? Comment below or write to us of your thoughts, ideas and experiences of similar initiatives!

The Good City Citizens Forum happens weekly in Goa.  It is publicized in most newspapers; you can join our discourse in person or follow our progress online, either on social media or subscribe to our mailing list here.

 

Further Reading:

CCF Blog

‘Late-Night Stroll, Anyone? Assessing Safety in Panaji’s Streets’

Participatory exercise with children in U.S.A.  https://www.dailycamera.com/2019/04/29/growing-up-boulder-collaborates-with-700-elementary-students-on-city-map/

 

Event@CCF: Film screening of ‘Kakkoos’

While the 2017 documentary presented the stark reality of manual scavengers in Tamil Nadu, the subsequent discussion, with the lawyer and human rights activist Albertina Almeida, and the architect Tallulah D’Silva, provided insight on way-forward action in Goa.

 

Have you ever wondered what happens after you flush your toilet? In urban India, we rely on the government to contain, manage and, if we are overly optimistic, treat our sewerage. But we (should) know better: we depend on, and exploit by complicity, a section of society to literally clean up our mess. The documentary ‘Kakkoos’, directed by activist Divya Bharathi, unforgivingly holds up a mirror to our actions.

The 2013 ‘Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation’ Act has defined ‘manual scavenger’ as:

“a person engaged or employed, at the commencement of this Act or at any time thereafter, by an individual or local authority or an agency or a contractor, for manually cleaning, carrying, disposing of, or otherwise handling in any manner, human excreta in an insanitary latrine or in an open drain or pit into which the human excreta from the insanitary latrines is disposed of, or on a railway track or in such other spaces or premises, as the Central Government of a State Government may notify, before the excreta fully decomposes in such manner as may be prescribed…”

Manual scavenging has been officially banned since 1993, with the ban being reinforced with the 2013 Act. But the 109-minute documentary, which focusses on manual scavenging in Tamil Nadu, sheds light on a grim reality by detailing the plight of manual scavengers and their families in a casteist society.

Capture.JPGStill from the film: Improvement of the economic status of manual scavengers is prevented by a deep-rooted casteist prejudice. (credits: Divya Bharathi)

According to the ENVIS Centre on Hygiene, Sanitation, Sewage Treatment Systems and Technology, the Central Government counts 53,000 manual scavengers in India. The film argues otherwise: due to open defecation, even street garbage collectors face the humiliating task of collecting excreta almost every day. Since they are provided gloves, they are not labelled ‘manual scavengers’ and thus cannot be protected by the law.

Daily-wage labourers employed for cleaning railway tracks, septic tanks, manholes and small-town open sewers also face the same prejudice. The blatant exploitation of labourers is bigger than a casteist problem; it is a socio-economic issue where the poor, usually the women and the aged of marginalised sections of society, are forced into manual scavenging labour.

Capture1.JPG
Still from the film: Though they clean the sewers of the city, manual scavengers are forced to live in slums without access to clean sanitation. (credits: Divya Bharathi)

The film inspired viewers to begin an animated discussion on important takeaways and the steps going forward. Led by Albertina Almeida and Tallulah D’Silva, various ideas were discussed for individuals and the community to take up.

Tallulah, an architect who is passionate about sustainable solutions, noted the significance of zero-waste dry toilets and suggested a lifestyle change with their use. She urged the audience to rethink the default flushing system, which mixes excreta with water thus creating the need for septic tanks, which inherently depend on manual scavenging. An important takeaway was the changes that the architecture community can catalyse by practice, such as a DIY dry toilet kit, which uses sand and sunlight to break down excreta. CCF will collaborate with Tallulah to organise a workshop on making dry toilets in the foreseeable future.

Albertina, a lawyer and human rights activist, emphasised the need for a statewide manual scavenger survey with self-registration booths in Goa to understand the magnitude of the issue. As a society, to bring the issue to the forefront of political concern—which forces politicians to bank on the interests of the marginalised society—is the way forward.

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As individuals, what steps should we take to address and solve the problem? Comment below to let us know!

Those interested in the film may view it here on YouTube.

 

Read more about manual scavenging here:

Late-night stroll, anyone? Assessing safety in Panaji’s streets

In a photoblog, the CCF team observes footpaths in Panaji from Jane Jacobs’ perspective.

 

Think of a city and what comes to mind? Its streets. If a city’s streets look interesting, the city looks interesting. If they look dull, the city looks dull.

– Jane Jacobs, ‘The Death and Life of Great American Cities’

As an activist for better cities, Jane Jacobs was very vocal about the failure of planning policy by ground-reality measures. Her 1961 book ‘The Death and Life of Great American Cities’ was avant-garde in its city planning principles, of which safety of the city was key. According to the urbanist, people feel a city is safe or unsafe depending on how they perceive its streets and footpaths.  

What does safety of footpaths entail? In the chapter ‘The uses of Sidewalks: Safety’, Jane Jacobs explains that peace on the streets is maintained by a “network of voluntary controls and standards among the people themselves, and enforced by the people themselves.” She breaks down the success of good city neighbourhoods into three main qualities:

  • A clear demarcation between private space and public space;
  • There must be eyes upon the street;
  • Footpaths must have users on them fairly continuously, both to add the number of effective eyes on the street and to induce the people in buildings along the street to watch them.

 

People’s love of watching, activity and other people is constantly evident in cities everywhere.

– Jane Jacobs, ‘The Death and Life of Great American Cities’

The qualities seem like easy goals, but it is not simple to achieve them. As Jacobs puts it simply, “You can’t make people use streets they have no reason to use. You can’t make people watch streets they do not want to watch.”

The CCF team observed Panaji’s footpaths during various times (office-closing and shop-closing hours, for instance) on a weekday evening to understand the dimension of safety in the city.

Panaji map.jpgKey plan

1. D.B.Road, near Children’s Park

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Despite having good lighting and footpath conditions, and vehicular activity throughout the night, the primary street lacks concrete reasons for using or watching it, thus lacking the checks and inhibitions exerted by eye-policed city streets.

2. Governador Pestana Road, near Panaji Market

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The commercial street sees late-night activity, and consequent surveillance, on account of the local food vendors.

3. M.G. Road

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The mixed-use street draws people late into, and throughout, the night due to the presence of eateries, ice-cream parlours and a 24-hour pharmacy.

4. 18th June Road

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The well-lit commercial street sees constant activity until late into the night. Shopkeepers are an unconscious source of vigilance, and shop activity on the footpaths—people buying, eating and talking— attracts more people.

5. Dr. Dada Vaidya Road, near the Mahalakshmi temple

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The well-lit mixed-use street sees no activity on its footpaths beyond retail-shop closing hours.

6. Ramachandra Naik Road, Altinho

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Despite being well-lit and completely accessible to public use, the interior residential street is closed to public view and is blank of built-in eyes.

7. D.B.Road, near Captain of Ports

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The well-lit primary street sees activity, and consequent surveillance, until late into the night due to the casino commerce.

8. 31st January Road

31st Jan road

The mixed-use street in the old Latin quarter of the city sees activity, and consequent surveillance, at night due to the presence of restaurants and the local bar.  

9. Nanu Tarkar Pednekar Road, Mala

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The residential street lacks sufficient lighting and sees no usual evening activity that attracts eyes.

10. Patto, near the KTC bus stand

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Despite sufficient lighting and footpath conditions, the street in the Patto Central Business District does not see activity on its footpaths after the closure of the bus stand and lacks built-in eyes.

As observed, the problem of insecurity cannot be solved by spreading people out into suburb-like neighbourhoods that require watchman patrol, or by good lighting alone. The observations back what Jacobs stresses on: a well-lit footpath in a dense, mixed-use neighbourhood, having late-night people-attracting ‘activity points’—eateries, bars, movie theatres, et al.—and unconsciously surveyed by ‘built-in eyes’ (such as residences above the commercial fronts) is a safe footpath!

 

jacobs2Jane Jacobs (May 4, 1916 – April 25, 2006) was an urbanist and activist whose writings championed a fresh, community-based approach to city building. She had no formal training as a planner, and yet her 1961 treatise, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, introduced ground-breaking ideas about how cities function, evolve and fail. The impact of Jane Jacobs’s observation, activism, and writing has led to a ‘planning blueprint’ for generations of architects, planners, politicians and activists to practice.

Jacobs saw cities as integrated systems that had their own logic and dynamism which would change over time according to how they were used. With an eye for detail, she wrote eloquently about sidewalks, parks, retail design and self-organization. She promoted higher density in cities, short blocks, local economies and mixed uses. Jacobs helped derail the car-centered approach to urban planning in both New York and Toronto, invigorating neighborhood activism by helping stop the expansion of expressways and roads. She lived in Greenwich Village for decades, then moved to Toronto in 1968 where she continued her work and writing on urbanism, economies and social issues until her death in April 2006.

A firm believer in the importance of local residents having input on how their neighborhoods develop, Jacobs encouraged people to familiarize themselves with the places where they live, work, and play. (Source: The Center for the Living City)

 

The CCF team wishes to thank Tahir Noronha for his contribution to this blog.

Riverfront proposal in Panaji: development or demise?

The CCF team takes a closer look at the Panaji riverfront development proposal.

 

Rivers have long been the backbone of human settlements for many reasons: fertile floodplains, irrigation, and transportation. With the pressure of urbanisation, riverfronts across the world have come to represent open public space in otherwise dense cities. Today, Riverfront Development projects are viewed as a “means of economic and cultural growth, and are dominated by commerce and recreation to create a thriving and continuous public realm.” (Yadav, n.d.)

Under the Smart Cities Mission, many cities have taken up riverfront projects, some of which are budgeted over 100 crores:

Name of the project City Budget (crores)
Reinvigoration of Vishwamitri Riverfront Influence Area Vadodara 508
Riverfront Development Shivamogga 421
Ganga Riverfront Development Kanpur 125
Gomti Riverfront Development Lucknow 113
Goda-Riverfront Development Nashik 110

(Smart Cities Mission GOI, 2016)

What is the money being utilised for? Upon closer inspection, the projects amount to little more than the promotion of recreational and commercial activities on riverfronts which “typically include promenades, boat trips, shopping, petty shops, restaurants, theme parks, walkways and even parking lots in the encroached river bed.” (SANDRP 2014.) ‘Riverfront development’ has been reduced to, and is used interchangeably with, ‘river beautification’.

In Panaji, the Smart City Proposal calls for an “Improved riverfront development along the Mandovi river (landscaping near Cruise jetty), soil conservation measures and beautification of open spaces and bridges.”

 

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A recent news article lists initiatives along Rua de Ourem creek

According to recent news articles featured in Goa Today (Gomantak, Marathi) and Times of India, the proposal has been further elaborated into the following initiatives:

  • Redevelopment of the Santa Monica Jetty with seating, viewpoints and food stalls;
  • A foot bridge connecting the Santa Monica Jetty to the old PWD building near the Patto bridge;
  • A “Welcome Centre” in place of the old PWD building near Patto bridge;
  • Extension of the existing footpath lining Rua de Ourem creek, behind the Central Library;
  • A 1.6-km walking path overlooking the creek near the People’s High School;
  • Cleaning of the creek “without destroying the ecosystem”;
  • Boating facility along the creek (the depth of the creek will be increased along the route);
  • Providing CCTV cameras “at required locations” to stop people from throwing trash.

The proposal has been promised within 18 months after the 2019 elections.

Based on the limited information, the CCF team’s first reaction is to question the environmental impact of the project: the long-term viability of the cleaning of the creek is unclear with the introduction of tourist-drawing boating facility. There is no mention of addressing the inevitable negative environmental impact of such tourist-centric initiatives. With the “redevelopment” of Santa Monica Jetty, the proposal seems unlikely to become anything more than a make-up treatment of Mandovi river.

What will be the true cost of such a project? In the past, many waterfront projects have blatantly violated many environmental laws of the land, thereby setting many local species protection projects back by years. Fauna and avifauna along the edges of water bodies face threat under such economically-motivated schemes.

In the face of such a trend, the key takeaway for citizens is that there should be an informed awareness of the riverfront or waterfront project in the city. Looking beyond the attractive sheen of promised recreational activity is important to question the environmental, cultural and social ramifications of the proposal.

The South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP) has called for restoration of rivers rather than beautification, concretisation, channeling or encroachment. A credible early-design-stage citizen participatory process, with an efficient mechanism for suggestions and objections, will strengthen the city’s backing of a well-designed programme (in a resounding example, effective implementation in the Netherlands has accounted for river water dynamics, erosion and sedimentation process, and the tides).

Factoring in ecological measures doesn’t have to dissolve citizens’ connection to the creek, or the river: if anything, experiencing the waterscape will only be enhanced by the protection of the water bodies. Isn’t that what Development is about?

 

Read more on Riverfront Development projects here:

Trend of Riverfront Development projects in India:
https://sandrp.in/2014/11/03/goda-park-riverfront-development-project-violation-of-court-order-and-destruction-of-fertile-riparian-zone/

Citizens’ action- Open letter to the Secretary, MOEF:
https://counterview.org/2016/01/09/cease-vadodaras-vishwamitri-riverfront-development-project-till-environmental-clearance-or-face-legal-action/

Netherlands’ Room for the River Programme:
https://www.riob.org/en/file/259093/download?token=L7PIEzs0

 

References:

SANDRP. 2014. “Riverfront Development in India: Cosmetic make up on deep wounds”. Accessed 2nd March 2019.
https://sandrp.in/2014/09/17/riverfront-development-in-india-cosmetic-make-up-on-deep-wounds/

Smart Cities Mission GOI. 2016. “List of Projects of Rs. 100 crore and above as per SCPs of 60 Smart Cities”. Accessed 2nd March 2019. http://smartcities.gov.in/upload/uploadfiles/files/List_of_Projects_60_Cities.pdf

Yadav, Vriddhi. n.d., “Riverfront Development in Indian Cities: The Missing Link.” Academia 1-6. https://www.academia.edu/32219232/Riverfront_Development_in_Indian_Cities_The_Missing_Link.

Car is King: Goa at the mercy of parking rule

The CCF team discusses the parking issue in Goa, and the state’s much-awaited response.

 

If you have ever found yourself driving past your destination and circling around for that elusive space free of a ‘No Parking’ sign (or ignoring that), you are part of an overwhelming majority in Goa. The situation isn’t unusual in a state where the annual vehicle growth rate is almost 10 times that of the population growth rate (2001-2011) (Source: Draft Parking Policy, IPSCL).

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Source: Draft Parking Policy, IPSCL

This phenomenal increase in traffic volume coupled with limited road space in major cities in the state account for the state’s parking woes. An unreliable public transport system and the general attitude towards car ownership, with its attached social status, evince that, without an efficient implementation of a holistic parking policy, the problem will not go away any time soon. The problem isn’t without irony: according to the Central Road Research Institute, an average car’s steering time in only 400 hours a year. That means a typical vehicle stays parked 95% of the time!

The past decade’s figures reveal the extent of the problem: with a 14.5 lakh population (Source: Census 2011) and a whopping 54.8 lakh tourist footfall in 2018 alone (Source: Department of Tourism, Govt. of Goa), it is evident that Goa’s thriving tourism industry heavily relies on the rental automobile industry. Where is the road space for all these vehicles?

img_7235.jpgTwo-wheelers encroach upon footpaths, making pedestrians vulnerable to moving vehicles on the carriageway.

The conventional methods of dealing with parking have largely been to increase the supply to meet the demand, by providing additional infrastructure for the driver rather than providing enough choices for the commuters, in terms of alternative public transport. The former, a limited approach, only leads to a system which will be insufficient in due course of time as it attracts more and more vehicles, as against a fixed parameter of road capacity.

To tackle parking, it is important to derive logical solutions to parking, based on its types: on-street parking and off-street parking. In its proposed Decongestion Model for Panaji City Centre in 2014, CCF called for delineation of on-street parking and a paid parking strategy. A significant parking fee for visitors encourages them to park off-street, in strategically located multi-storey parking structures, and use a regulated hop-on hop-off bus system into the city. The Model recommended a discounted parking allowance for shop owners and free parking for residents.

141118_Decongestion report-41CCF’s proposed off-street parking management in the Decongestion Model of the Panaji City Centre

 

parkingCCF’s proposed on-street parking management in the Decongestion Model of the Panaji City Centre

In the Draft Parking Policy, Imagine Panaji Smart City Limited has envisioned the following parking management strategies:

  1. Delineation of on-street parking
  2. Introduction of parking reservations on streets
  3. Pricing for on-street parking
  4. Pricing for off-street parking
  5. Parking permit schemes for residential and work zones
  6. Use of technology for Smart Parking
  7. Instituting a Parking Cell for enforcement
  8. Reconsidering building regulations to reduce parking minimums
  9. Introduction of Proof of Parking attached to the owner’s residential location
  10. Planning parking for the relatively sustainable electric vehicles

Parking-Basics-7Source: Parking Basics, Institute for Transportation and Development Policy

The Smart City parking proposal reconsiders the status quo: the automobile should not dominate the street. With an aim to prioritise the safe movement of people, services and goods on the road network, it seeks to enhance walkability of the city.

With demand-based pricing formulated on various factors—land value, vehicle type and duration of parking, parking district, and existing demand in the parking—the policy “enhances turnover of parking bays and ensures access to limited on-street parking in high parking demand areas.” The proposal also provides for any plans for the future of mobility: electric vehicles, which can reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Parking-Basics-13Source: Parking Basics, Institute for Transportation and Development Policy

The implementation of such parking solutions has a rough road ahead. The pay-parking system, introduced in Panaji in 2016, failed to bring any discipline to the city’s chaotic and mismanaged traffic and was discontinued in 2017 after the expiry of the contract awarded to a private operator. (Source: Herald Goa) However, the Corporation of the City of Panaji has decided, in March 2019, to reinstate the system using its workers to implement it (Source: Times of India Goa). Other tourist-attracting centres, such as Candolim and Old Goa, have also implemented the system to restrict unregulated parking and gain revenue.

Over recent decades, it has become evident that parking is an issue constantly and disproportionately growing with city size, in India and across the world. With timely implementation of the parking policy in its major urban centres, Goa has the chance to buck the trend, and ‘park’ the issue at the kerb!

Unclogging Panaji’s congestion problem

The CCF team discusses a major problem in the Goan capital: mobility, and the proposed Decongestion Model.

Continue reading “Unclogging Panaji’s congestion problem”

Event@CCF: ‘Can Participatory Development be infused in the Electoral Wards of the Heritage Panchayat of Se-Old Goa?’

A talk by Edgar Ribeiro, Architect-Planner Continue reading “Event@CCF: ‘Can Participatory Development be infused in the Electoral Wards of the Heritage Panchayat of Se-Old Goa?’”