New MAHUD for a new Imphal City : Township as powerful Engine of Growth

Mohendro Nandeibam *

 An aerial view of Imphal City
An aerial view of Imphal City :: Pix - Lamdamba Oinam

Now the combined operation of internal forces such as natural increase of population, migration and reclassification of formerly rural area and external forces of globalisation on larger market interaction and increasing commercialisation, has given rise to the growing need for scientific and sustainable urbanisation all over the world.

This is a reality. Imphal city cannot be exception. What could be the fate of Imphal city under the aggressive pressures ? This is a challenge facing the authority of MAHUD in Manipur.

Historically cities have been centres of learning and innovation. Cities are not mere “shopping centre”. They are meaningful “service centres” where various activities of value addition are being undertaken with both forward and backward linkages; horizontally and vertically.

The success of agricultural and industrial activities owes to the calculated efficiency of service sector. All products; agricultural and industrial; find their better outlet through cities and towns. As such, urban investment has strong multiplier effect on all value-added activities and ultimately on growth.

Cities act as engine of economic growth contributing 70% of National income. Government of India is planning to increase to 85% by 2030. Urban income normally exceeds rural income by 182 percent in 1980-81. Monthly per capita expenditure increases by 19% in urban areas as against 12% in rural areas.

Modern development may not be possible without sound and sustainable urbanisation leading to faster rate of economic development with intangible externalities such as proximity of learning and networking of knowledge, information and innovation; while other side of the story is negative externalities such as poor sanitation, pollution of air and water, congestion and crime.

Imphal city, which spreads over an area of 33 sq. km. with population of 2.5 lakh, lies in the central portion of 55.60 of Imphal Urban City Agglomeration. 70 per cent of total area is private patta land. The density of population is about 6500 persons per sq. km. area. Government land is only 22.18 sq. km.

Perhaps, the greatest challenge is “the sprawl” forming haphazard expansion of city. Land market is not only imperfect but also chronically limited. The mixed land use policy of paddy field and settlement is an acute constraint.

By 2007 agricultural area was 6.58 sq. km. On an average 1-2 hectares of fertile paddy land got spoilt by being converted to urban built-up-land. This disturbing trend continues unabated. In fact, we are burning the two ends of candle. Paddy land is lost and at the same time urban facilities are not available. People suffer double deprivations.

Right now, urbanisation in Manipur is in the “incipient stage” with Imphal city as “primate city” (Planning Dept., Government of Manipur: Vision -2030). The whole environment of Imphal city remains plagued with traffic congestion, feeble sewerage system, and frequent flood during rainy season, mounting urban wastes and water pollution;- threatening life of urban dwellers and telling upon the urban economy.

Imphal city looks seized. A time has come for the Department of MAHUD to assess the heavy cost of weaknesses, deficiencies, leakages and failures. Why should we deny the positive externalities of smart cities and delay possible contribution to State Domestic Product ?

Of course, urban development is the joint product of major sectors and departments. Can we think of applying PM Gati Shakti;— bringing 16 Ministries together for integrated planning and coordinated implementation.

It may be extremely difficult to check increasing urbanisation because of “push and pull factors”. We have to face the emerging challenges so that “Imphal City Vision 2030” contributes 30 per cent of the State Domestic Product.

Of course, there is need for committed co-operation and co-ordination of various sectors. Besides, one cannot ignore the sense of sacrifice of people for the cause of development. Right now, the general perception of people in urban area is largely “rural” in their response and reaction; in the sense that except electricity, to them, everything is free gift of nature. Most of them are “takers” rather than “maker or contributor”.

The first possible intervention could be new Imphal City along foothills around Khongampat to Langol Hill on the available area of 60 lakh sq. metres. This area is flood free. The slope of foothill gives excellent sites for the construction of public offices and service centres.

People in Khongampat, Kameng, Khaman, Loitang, Mayangingkhol, Lamsang, Lamlongei, Luwangsangbam etc. would enjoy the taste of progressive urbanisation and also consumers surplus. This may go a long way in reducing the burden of “city jungle”.

Second, steps should be initiated to clean the Nambol, Naga-nallah, Waisel streams, Kongba and Heingang-khong streams. This is the joint responsibility of MAHUD and Department of Water Resources.

Third, embankment of Imphal and Nambul rivers should receive continuous attention. In fact, we can think of a long term river management plan to avoid constant havoc.

Fourth, Manipur needs clear-cut housing policy especially for urban areas to avoid inconveniences of encroachment.

Fifth, decentralised urbanisation away from Imphal having functional and spatial linkages with Imphal may be given deserving attention. This may help development of medium size towns in intervening area. The initiative for Ring-Road should be expedited.

Lastly, there is a need for empowering Urban Local Bodies with more Human Capital for better project planning and project management. Outsourcing may be taken advantage of for the time being.

We can learn a nice lesson from Tripura in the management of urban affairs. The principle of transparency and accountability is strictly insisted upon without any compromise. The presentation of OUTCOME BUDGET of Agartala is unique and speaks volume.

What works in Maharashtra and Gujarat may not work in Manipur. As such, Manipur needs a home-grown-model of urbanisation based on social and cultural realities. What is required is social acceptance and support.

Effective co-ordination and co-operation of all major departments is key to success of Urban Local Bodies. We can think of Inter-Departmental-Service-Budgeting for urban bodies to ensure the delivery of budgeted service in the spirit of integrated approach of PM JATI SHAKTI.

For funding we have to take full advantage of Finance Commission of India under Article 280 of Constitution of India. We can start working self-speaking proposals of lasting significance to be submitted to the 6th Finance Commission. Of course, there are other sources also but the award recommended by the Finance Commission is guaranteed by the Constitution and could possibly be committed revenue.

* Mohendro Nandeibam wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer was Prof of Economics at Manipur University and can be contacted at profnmsingh(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on May 20 2022.

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