Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Replacing the IT Park for Central Park

This column has consistently raged the establishment of the IT Park for months now, and yet I do not find myself reassured by Monserrate’s latest move to join forces with the opposition to the IT Park. In addition to the displacement of people from the land that was to host the IT Park, what was deeply troubling about the location of the IT Park was the vision of urban development that it carried along with it. In truth it seemed hardly any vision at all, since in addition to the pea-brained suggestions that the occupants of the park would generate their own water and electricity, the idea of urban development it envisaged was really that of continuous urban sprawl. Which is why it is important that if the IT Park is to be displaced it be replaced with an alternative that coherently articulates a sensible and sensitive urban plan.

Panjim is widely regarded as a charming city and much of its charm lies in the fact that it is bound together through a grid of roads and the fact that park land was amply distributed through the city to remove the monotony of continuous built space. Further, the Goan rural environment is prized as a viable retirement option for many around the world, primarily because it has a definite urban environment. What marks the Goan space as special then is the unique relationship between the open and the built, the concrete and the green. And yet it is this very relationship that is being ignored and undermined through such projects as the IT Park.

Central Park is New York is a fine example of what the now contested land allotted for the IT Park can become. Spread over 843 acres the park offers a vital recreational space to the residents of the city. One has only to delve into the history of Central Park to realize the similarities that between the contested land in Taleigao and New York. The Park caters to a highly mixed used, being used at one point of time to accommodate New York’s elite set as they went out to see and be seen, for livestock to graze, it’s a prized possession for athletes who use its open spaces and jogging tracks, allows new-age dabblers to go forage for wild food as well, and sustains a tourism as well! The land allotted for the IT Park has been contested even before the proposal for the IT Park, as residents of the villages around the plateau were being pushed out by the new residential developments cropping up in Dona Paula. Land that was being used for grazing, firewood and farming and other spiritual and religious uses was being reused by the emerging middle class without necessarily taking into account the prior uses of these earlier residents. The IT Park would have only compounded the socio-economic conflicts that were slowly beginning to emerge. Converting the contested land into a huge park that meets multiple uses would help in resolving the socio-economic tensions between the old and new users of this land, as well as stem the problems that would emerge from the kind of urban sprawl that is presently proceeding unchecked. A wooded parkland that hosts two working farms, cattle grazing grounds, a proper playground for the young to play in, paths for joggers and walkers to amble around in conjures up an urban idyll that many cities would kill for. Merely take cue from New York’s Central Park, Delhi’s Lodhi Gardens area, Bangalore’s Cubbon Park to realize that if the quality of life is a marker of development, then having a large urban park in your neighborhood improves your quality of life.

Perhaps what is required now, after Monserrate’s assertion, is for the varied types of residents and users of the contested site to come together and assert a plan for the land that would take into consideration their unique needs. Further they would need to articulate an organization, like the Central Park Conservancy, a not-for-profit organization that runs Central Park that would manage the park land, assuring that the same piece of land can cater to recreational uses, livelihood generation, as well as the spiritual needs of the communities in the area.
(Published in the Gomantak Times 5th December 2007)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This entire article is based on the false premise that Catholicism contains castes. Roman Catholicism has ipso facto no caste and therefore those who are inclined to think they are Catholic Brahmins defile the Church's good name and parasitically contaminate it.
Dr Cornel DaCosta, London, UK.