This old heritage building ‘Obras Publicas’ known as the PWD building is being ‘reconstructed’ ‘renovated’ so says the government. The local people especially the heritage lovers are in the dark about their plans and have to understand that more buildings are in the pipeline to be ‘renovated’ - the National Theatre building, the famous Circular Praca de Comercio building at Panjim square to name a few.

Know this: Goa was already a rich ‘city’ with people from different parts of Asia coming in to trade FOR CENTURIES! It was a natural entrepôt in ancient times. Roman ships used to trade with Arabia and the west coast of India including Goa even before 1 AD. Emperor Constantine’s coins were also found in the tank in Pilar as was pottery from China, Arabia too. (Check the museum in Pilar for evidence.)

Much later with the arrival of the Europeans, the Portuguese, trading took place between Portugal and south east Asia to as far as Macau with Goa as a major stop over being the headquarters of the Portuguese in the East.

So here is what we goan heritage lovers want: Take a look at this old goan lady. She is extremely well cared for by her family BUT they allow her to BE who SHE wants to be. They embrace her wisdom which didn’t appear overnight but grew with time.

She loves to potter around in her field and nurture a few plants that are left after the cows have destroyed her crop. She still plods on feeling confident standing on her two aged feet working with her calloused hands wearing a perfect smile on her face as she chats with me animatedly.

The weather is windy, it’s not a bother. She knows the value of the soil in her land and to her it is a living breathing thing she explained for she will turn to dust some day and be scattered in the soil. The soil that will still help sustain family for future generations like how she was sustained for by her ancestors.

Here is a beautiful example of how many goans like her, value our heritage space. We think of Goa as a CULTURAL STATE not a commercial capital of sorts to make money off!

To see the old structure at Rua de Ourem creek being ‘’renovated’ haphazardly without the presence of experts feels like it’s being demolished! This is heart breaking for it carries layers and layers of our cultural history. A beautiful cultural space right near Fontainhas which gives one a glimpse of Goa’s Latin Quarter.

The building Obras Publicas.. old PWD situated at the creek’s western tip.. between bridges there in Panjim which is being ‘refurbished’. It is a place that could be added to our city’s cultural space.. instead of having some offices there. All that is needed is some good planning according to experts and heritage lovers

GOANS are who we are and we want to BE who we choose to be like this lady…just simple, kind hearted, TOLERANT people, a trait that came in due to our exposure to both cultures of the East and west. Sadly, with the kind of political climate today we can see only greed, corruption and destruction in the name of development everywhere. Our verdant environment in addition to our cultural environment is being compromised reducing our own people to become greedy, corrupted and intolerant to survive!

No government or political party is any better than the character of those who administer it. And to think that these are our own GOANS doing this to its people is SAD!

Like this aged lady who knows the value of her land, we know the value of our cultural heritage and would like to nurture it. We see our heritage as a thinking, living being too and while we ourselves will turn to dust and ashes one day, our cultural history will live on only IF WE OURSELVES DO NOT KILL IT.

Like the soil in the field which can help more crops to grow, let our cultural history help our future generations providing them with a source for reference of our glorious past and for this to happen… get educated first on our past which existed way beyond the arrival of the Portuguese.

It is already horrifying to see an illegal house in another heritage space in Old Goa. And recently the use (misuse) of Church space in Panjim for a lovely exhibition which could have been held and celebrated in a neutral venue.

To the smart city planners of Panjim, if you are smart enough, get busy and engage with heritage groups, curators and other stakeholders. Project Goa as a Cultural State. Draw up a strong policy plan to save everything that’s left of our history and culture beginning in our capital city and in and around Goa for our future generations.

Many thanks to this lady and family for giving me their permission to publish her story.

Many thanks to the Goa Heritage Action Group and other heritage groups and individuals for voicing their concerns.”

Photographs and text Clarice Vaz

The photographs below were shared on social media by heritage activist Heta Pandit who writes:

“An alarming phenomenon has been happening in the city of Panjim. Many iconic and heritage buildings have been abandoned with no sense of repurposing.

And what’s more, is losing a lot of these original structures in the name of restoration, and a lack of transparency or consultation with the public on these projects.

A recent building to fall prey to this phenomenon is the old PWD building, where we found a few things upon inspection:

- the original flooring left uncovered and unprotected, with debris and other spills.

- a hundred year old tree, has been mercilessly hacked simply because a branch was touching the building.

- all the original roofing has been taken down.

If I close my eyes, I can imagine these spaces to be centres for art-and-culture, with paintings, installations, performances, all against the backdrop of the Patto bridge and the flowing Mandovi. But then that’s me…

Instead, the Smart City Project have their own offices in this iconic structure.

The Goa Heritage Action Group has put forward a list of concerns. We really hope the concerned authorities take these into consideration.”

Photographs and text, Heta Pandit/ Facebook

Clarice Vaz is a visual artist and Heta Pandit a heritage activist, in Goa