Towards developing a climate resilient Panaji


Panaji is on the move towards becoming one of the first smart cities of India, and under the ongoing AMRUT scheme, it is undergoing transformation to develop more robust infrastructure linkages. The city administration has been progressively moving towards a more sustainable development approach, with a Revised City Development Plan for 2041. Panaji, as a coastal city, by virtue of its natural setting is vulnerable to climate change impacts and sea level rise. Additionally, the rapid urbanization and tourism influx pose as major threats to the ecologically-sensitive areas of Panaji, such as khazan lands, mangroves and creeks. In the recent years, Panaji has made efforts to integrate climate risk management strategies as an essential part of city development to overcome the risks posed by climate change, natural disasters and other extreme events.

The name 'Panaji' means "land that never floods" in Portuguese, however, in a study by TERI, submitted to the Corporation of the City of Panaji, it is identified as one of the most critical cities in India that are vulnerable to flooding due to the predicted sea-level rise. TERI had predicted a rise in the sea level coupled with events like extreme rainfall which could lead to inundation and waterlogging in the city areas disrupting the daily activities and causing damage to the heritage and eco-sensitive zones.

CCP’s Initiatives for a Climate Resilient Panaji

In 2014, the Corporation of the City of Panaji (CCP) collaborated with TERI (The Energy & Resources Institute) to conduct a year-long study 'Climate Resilient Infrastructure Services' in Panaji, supported by USAID as part of their Climate Change Resilient Development (CCRD) project. It focused on inventorying urban infrastructure along with developing a climate vulnerability assessment approach for infrastructure services to support climate resilient planning efforts. This was followed up with a detailed policy and institutional assessment that provided a roadmap for implementation. Recommendations were made for maintaining beach erosion information, undertaking rehabilitation and preservation measures around sand dunes and mangroves, so that predicted sea level rise does not affect the city's coastal morphology and soil characteristics significantly. Proper management of solid waste to prevent water inundation in some city parts during monsoon was also recommended.

In 2015, CCP had also worked in association with ICLEI: Local Governments for Sustainability (South Asia) on the multi-country Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network programme that is supported by the Rockefeller Foundation. Under this scheme, CCP is implementing a toolkit developed by ICLEI South Asia (SA) specifically for city governments to help them assess their vulnerabilities to climate change and to develop corresponding climate resilience strategies. Based on the data collected through a previous exercise on Urban Vulnerability Assessment, which ICLEI-SA had carried out in Panaji, the climate threats and its impacts on various urban sectors have been documented. A total of 7 urban sectors (water supply, health, transportation, sanitation, land, storm water and ecosystems) have been identified which are vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Through a shared learning dialogue in August 2015 with a wide array of stakeholders, the climate risks and suggested interventions for combating the same have been identified for each urban sector, and are to be incorporated in the city's development process.

Recognizing the need for protecting the biodiversity of eco-sensitive zones in Panaji, TERI is currently preparing a People's Biodiversity Register (PBR) under the aegis of Goa State Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited. Underthe Biological Diversity Act, 2002 of India, it is required for local Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCs) to prepare a PBR. The PBR records status of local biodiversity and relationships of various user-groups with these - essentially from a local people's perspective. This initiative promotes sustainable use and equitable benefit sharing while conserving the biological diversity. The project focuses on biodiversity conservation and generates urban level biodiversity management plans.

It is CCP's vision that these efforts will go a long way in developing a smart city Panaji, on the principles of climate resilience.

The Vision for Panaji, as identified by the Revised City Development Plan, 2041 is:

"To develop the city as clean, environment friendly and ecologically sustainable, with focus on improvement of the city urban infrastructure facilities, tourist infrastructure, conservation of the natural elements and heritage structures by adoption of eco-friendly alternatives and techniques."