power shift

Why many Goans are pleased at the fall of Portugal’s 11-day government

There is a strong chance that Antonio Costa, the son of a Goan poet, could become the prime minister of Goa's erstwhile colonial master.

As Portugal President Anibal Cavaco Silva decides on the political course of action following the collapse of the nation’s 11-day-old centre-right coalition government, there is an air of excitement in faraway Goa. Standing on the cusp of power is 54-year-old Antonio Costa, the general secretary of the Portuguese Socialist Party, its prime ministerial candidate in the October 4 election, and the son of a Goan poet.

Shortly after the elections, which returned a hung parliament, the charismatic Costa achieved the near impossible, uniting Portugal’s three main left parties, including the Communist Party and Left Bloc. Bonded around an anti-austerity programme, the left coalition brought down the minority government of Pedro Passos Coelho.

The president now has the option of either allowing Passos Coelho to continue until fresh elections are called, or invite the left coalition under Costa to head the government. This period of uncertainty is being closely followed in Goa, with newspapers headlining Costa’s possible rise to high office.

Lisbon's Gandhi

His trajectory was set, it would seem, when he was thrice elected mayor of Lisbon from 2007 to 2015. During that time, he came to be known as Lisbon’s Gandhi, for shifting his civic offices to a poorer crime and prostitution-affected district and turning around its fortunes. He then replicated the feat in similar areas and put the body’s financials on a sounder footing.

Costa stepped down from the mayorship in April to focus on the election campaign after he was elected general secretary of the Portuguese Socialist Party and was chosen to be its prime ministerial candidate. His earlier stints were as Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Justice Minister, Interior Minister, and as a lawmaker in the European Parliament.

Born in Lisbon, Antonio is the son of famous Goan writer Orlando da Costa, whose novel O Signo da Ira (Sign of Ire), set in Goa, is still considered a classic on colonial feudal systems that prevailed then. Orlando spent his boyhood and student years in Goa, but pursued higher studies in Lisbon, joining the then banned Communist Party. Though Orlando married and settled in Portugal, he visited Goa every few years, before his demise in 2006.

In the 150-year-old Costa ancestral house on Margao’s Rua Abade Faria Road, Antonio Costa’s first cousin Anna Kaarina has him in her prayers. “We are of course still hoping he makes it,” she said.

Others feel the same way. “It would bring great honour and pride if a person of Goan origin became prime minister of Portugal,” said Goa’s Rajya Sabha MP Shantaram Naik.

Ease of assimilation

Like most second generation immigrants, the 54-year-old Costa may identify more with his Portuguese present than with his Goan roots on his father’s side (his mother is a Portuguese writer). But the fact that the grandson of a Goan is on the cusp of becoming the head of government of its erstwhile colonial master is no less significant, says historian Lourdes Bravo da Costa.

Goan historian Dr Teotonio de Souza, who now lives in Lisbon, is less enamoured. “A Costa has hardly ever shown any interest about Goans in Portugal,” he told Scoll.in. He also points out that Portugal already had its first Goan prime minister, Alfredo Nobre da Costa, who held office for a short period as a presidential nominee from August to November 1978.

This ease of assimilation and acceptance is, in fact, rooted in colonial history.

An estimated 70,000 Indians live in Portugal, according to one 2012 academic study by Indian Institute of Management-Bangalore Professor Rupa Chanda, with the number for Goans ranging from 11,000 to 30,000. The study says the descendants of Goans who emigrated to Portugal before 1961, mainly as students in professional medical, law, engineering and humanities, easily assimilated into Portuguese society of that time, forming an elite section that was distinct from the later waves of immigration.

They spoke the language, some married ethnic Portuguese, and rose to high positions in Portugal. The assimilation was more complete with Catholic emigrants, who share similar surnames, culture and religion.

Colonial footprint

Chanda also makes the point that Portugal’s longer 451-year colonial footprint in Goa (they were the first Europeans to come in 1510 and the last to leave in 1961) was markedly different from the British. “Portugal granted Goa the status of ‘vice kingdom’, which gave the same rights [for instance, citizenship rights] to the inhabitants of Goa under colonial rule as those enjoyed by the Portuguese in Europe.”

The upper castes, both Christian and Hindu, and the propertied were of course privileged in this equation and even in the power-sharing that took place in colonial Goa, not all without rivalries and revolts. “From the mid-1800s those paying property taxes were able to vote in the elections to determine who would represent Goa in the Portuguese Parliament,” writes Lisbon-based legal anthropologist Jason Fernandes.

The possible rise of Costa, though, is taking things a lot further than that.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

India’s urban water crisis calls for an integrated approach

We need solutions that address different aspects of the water eco-system and involve the collective participation of citizens and other stake-holders.

According to a UN report, around 1.2 billion people, or almost one fifth of the world’s population, live in areas where water is physically scarce and another 1.6 billion people, or nearly one quarter of the world’s population, face economic water shortage. They lack basic access to water. The criticality of the water situation across the world has in fact given rise to speculations over water wars becoming a distinct possibility in the future. In India the problem is compounded, given the rising population and urbanization. The Asian Development Bank has forecast that by 2030, India will have a water deficit of 50%.

Water challenges in urban India

For urban India, the situation is critical. In 2015, about 377 million Indians lived in urban areas and by 2030, the urban population is expected to rise to 590 million. Already, according to the National Sample Survey, only 47% of urban households have individual water connections and about 40% to 50% of water is reportedly lost in distribution systems due to various reasons. Further, as per the 2011 census, only 32.7% of urban Indian households are connected to a piped sewerage system.

Any comprehensive solution to address the water problem in urban India needs to take into account the specific challenges around water management and distribution:

Pressure on water sources: Rising demand on water means rising pressure on water sources, especially in cities. In a city like Mumbai for example, 3,750 Million Litres per Day (MLD) of water, including water for commercial and industrial use, is available, whereas 4,500 MLD is needed. The primary sources of water for cities like Mumbai are lakes created by dams across rivers near the city. Distributing the available water means providing 386,971 connections to the city’s roughly 13 million residents. When distribution becomes challenging, the workaround is to tap ground water. According to a study by the Centre for Science and Environment, 48% of urban water supply in India comes from ground water. Ground water exploitation for commercial and domestic use in most cities is leading to reduction in ground water level.

Distribution and water loss issues: Distribution challenges, such as water loss due to theft, pilferage, leaky pipes and faulty meter readings, result in unequal and unregulated distribution of water. In New Delhi, for example, water distribution loss was reported to be about 40% as per a study. In Mumbai, where most residents get only 2-5 hours of water supply per day, the non-revenue water loss is about 27% of the overall water supply. This strains the municipal body’s budget and impacts the improvement of distribution infrastructure. Factors such as difficult terrain and legal issues over buildings also affect water supply to many parts. According to a study, only 5% of piped water reaches slum areas in 42 Indian cities, including New Delhi. A 2011 study also found that 95% of households in slum areas in Mumbai’s Kaula Bunder district, in some seasons, use less than the WHO-recommended minimum of 50 litres per capita per day.

Water pollution and contamination: In India, almost 400,000 children die every year of diarrhea, primarily due to contaminated water. According to a 2017 report, 630 million people in the South East Asian countries, including India, use faeces-contaminated drinking water source, becoming susceptible to a range of diseases. Industrial waste is also a major cause for water contamination, particularly antibiotic ingredients released into rivers and soils by pharma companies. A Guardian report talks about pollution from drug companies, particularly those in India and China, resulting in the creation of drug-resistant superbugs. The report cites a study which indicates that by 2050, the total death toll worldwide due to infection by drug resistant bacteria could reach 10 million people.

A holistic approach to tackling water challenges

Addressing these challenges and improving access to clean water for all needs a combination of short-term and medium-term solutions. It also means involving the community and various stakeholders in implementing the solutions. This is the crux of the recommendations put forth by BASF.

The proposed solutions, based on a study of water issues in cities such as Mumbai, take into account different aspects of water management and distribution. Backed by a close understanding of the cost implications, they can make a difference in tackling urban water challenges. These solutions include:

Recycling and harvesting: Raw sewage water which is dumped into oceans damages the coastal eco-system. Instead, this could be used as a cheaper alternative to fresh water for industrial purposes. According to a 2011 World Bank report, 13% of total freshwater withdrawal in India is for industrial use. What’s more, the industrial demand for water is expected to grow at a rate of 4.2% per year till 2025. Much of this demand can be met by recycling and treating sewage water. In Mumbai for example, 3000 MLD of sewage water is released, almost 80% of fresh water availability. This can be purified and utilised for industrial needs. An example of recycled sewage water being used for industrial purpose is the 30 MLD waste water treatment facility at Gandhinagar and Anjar in Gujarat set up by Welspun India Ltd.

Another example is the proposal by Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) to recycle and reclaim sewage water treated at its existing facilities to meet the secondary purposes of both industries and residential complexes. In fact, residential complexes can similarly recycle and re-use their waste water for secondary purposes such as gardening.

Also, alternative rain water harvesting methods such as harvesting rain water from concrete surfaces using porous concrete can be used to supplement roof-top rain water harvesting, to help replenish ground water.

Community initiatives to supplement regular water supply: Initiatives such as community water storage and decentralised treatment facilities, including elevated water towers or reservoirs and water ATMs, based on a realistic understanding of the costs involved, can help support the city’s water distribution. Water towers or elevated reservoirs with onsite filters can also help optimise the space available for water distribution in congested cities. Water ATMs, which are automated water dispensing units that can be accessed with a smart card or an app, can ensure metered supply of safe water.

Testing and purification: With water contamination being a big challenge, the adoption of affordable and reliable multi-household water filter systems which are electricity free and easy to use can help, to some extent, access to safe drinking water at a domestic level. Also, the use of household water testing kits and the installation of water quality sensors on pipes, that send out alerts on water contamination, can create awareness of water contamination and drive suitable preventive steps.

Public awareness and use of technology: Public awareness campaigns, tax incentives for water conservation and the use of technology interfaces can also go a long way in addressing the water problem. For example, measures such as water credits can be introduced with tax benefits as incentives for efficient use and recycling of water. Similarly, government water apps, like that of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, can be used to spread tips on water saving, report leakage or send updates on water quality.

Collaborative approach: Finally, a collaborative approach like the adoption of a public-private partnership model for water projects can help. There are already examples of best practices here. For example, in Netherlands, water companies are incorporated as private companies, with the local and national governments being majority shareholders. Involving citizens through social business models for decentralised water supply, treatment or storage installations like water ATMs, as also the appointment of water guardians who can report on various aspects of water supply and usage can help in efficient water management. Grass-root level organizations could be partnered with for programmes to spread awareness on water safety and conservation.

For BASF, the proposed solutions are an extension of their close engagement with developing water management and water treatment solutions. The products developed specially for waste and drinking water treatment, such as Zetag® ULTRA and Magnafloc® LT, focus on ensuring sustainability, efficiency and cost effectiveness in the water and sludge treatment process.

BASF is also associated with operations of Reliance Industries’ desalination plant at Jamnagar in Gujarat.The thermal plant is designed to deliver up to 170,000 cubic meters of processed water per day. The use of inge® ultrafiltration technologies allows a continuous delivery of pre-filtered water at a consistent high-quality level, while the dosage of the Sokalan® PM 15 I protects the desalination plant from scaling. This combination of BASF’s expertise minimises the energy footprint of the plant and secures water supply independent of the seasonal fluctuations. To know more about BASF’s range of sustainable solutions and innovative chemical products for the water industry, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of BASF and not by the Scroll editorial team.