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Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way
WEB MAGAZINE - February 2018

Collaboration on tackling Goa’s urban challenges

For decades, Goa has been one of the most popular tourist destinations in India. Although the coastal state is the smallest state in India by size, it is the richest in terms of GDP. While Goa’s rapid growth is bringing wealth to the state, it has taken its toll on both local communities and the environment.

Heavily polluted rivers and streams, groundwater contaminated by human waste, a coastline that is threatened by over-consumption of tourists, and commons formerly used for agricultural turning into luxury hotels. The urban challenges Goa is facing are many.

However, these challenges may not be unique to Goa and India. Could there be some similarities with urban challenges in the Nordics? Could a common ground be found for collaboration, and could Nordic solutions and experiences be relevant in an Indian context?

Finding a common Indian-Nordic ground

These questions were the starting point for the India Urban Lab, which took place in Goa on 6-9 February this year. The four-day workshop aimed to find new ways to work with Goa’s challenges relating to tourism, water resilience and urban commons.

“Goa is a complex ecosystem with a lot of stakeholders involved. The urban lab was a great platform for people with different backgrounds to come together and look at the problems through their own lenses."

Sachin Ubbarada
Landscape architect

During the Lab, Indian and Nordic experts worked together on developing solutions to these challenges. They visited sites and held meetings with local government officials to obtain a comprehensive understanding of the challenges in Goa, and identified several opportunities for future Nordic-Indian collaboration.

“Goa is a complex ecosystem with a lot of stakeholders involved. The urban lab was a great platform for people with different backgrounds to come together and look at the problems through their own lenses. I think that this gives very comprehensive ideas about how the ecosystem is layered, as well as comprehensive solutions and ideas about how to proceed with these problems”, says landscape architect Sachin Ubbarada from Bangalore.

Inspiration from the Nordic Swan Ecolabel

Nordic experiences with environmental evaluation and certification, like the Nordic Swan Ecolabel, were among the proposals as a potential basis for building a tool to certify products and hotel services in Goa – which could be a potential platform for future Nordic-Indian business collaborations. However, local circumstances necessitate that solutions must be feasible, scalable and cost-effective, and citizen engagement will be critical for the success of small-scale projects in the local communities. Marketing, branding and storytelling are important tools in this work.

The India Urban Lab in Goa was organised by a Nordic-Indian consortium including the International Federation for Housing and Planning in Denmark (IFHP), Integrated Design in India, Global Utmaning from Sweden, and The Danish Trade Council in India.

Part of the Nordic prime ministers’ initiative

The India Urban Lab is one of nine events and activities promoting Nordic solutions to urban development challenges to relevant stakeholders outside the Nordic region. The Lab was funded by Nordic Innovation through the Nordic Sustainable Cities project.

Nordic Sustainable Cities is one of six flagship projects under the Nordic prime ministers’ initiative, Nordic Solutions to Global Challenges. The prime minister’s initiative is coordinated by the Nordic Council of Ministers and promotes sustainability and progress toward the UN Sustainability Goals.

Nordic Innovation opened for applications for a new round of grants for similar events and activities earlier this February. Deadline for new applications is 9 April 2018.

Photo 1: IFHP and INDE

Photo 2: IFHP and INDE