Solution to the surging congestion in Imphal : Societal engineering approach

N Shyamsundar Singh *

 Traffic Clrcus: Manipur Style (September 2016)
Traffic Clrcus: Manipur Style (September 2016) :: Pix - TSE

A. The Problem:

Congestion that causes inconvenience very often in terms of inadvertent delay, minor and fatal road accidents, loss of harmony, commotion, creation of smog & breathing difficulties etc. to the traffic in particular and other individuals in general of Imphal, has been well explained by many including Ng. Liklaimeima Arambam (TSE 3rd Feb., 2021).

The problem is identified and laid threadbare before all with the request to offer a pragmatic solution.

B. Probable Reasons:

The probable reasons attributing to traffic congestion may be not one or two but all of the facts listed below:

(i) Width of the road is not adequate.
(ii) Road side is used as a parking lot.
(iii) Number of vehicles has surpassed the expectation.
(iv) More unruly and rash driving.
(v) Locations of the business centres, public and private offices etc. along the highway side are not suitable considering exponential increase in traffic volume.
(vi) Rush hour traffic is massive.
(vii) Traffic lights are not functioning properly.
(viii) Traffic signs are not memorized.
(ix) Multi -Traffic-System management is difficult.
(x) Traffic cops are exhausted and often confused.
(xi) General public does not support any kind of coverage on foot.
(xii) Area of the City/Town is really small and it is unplanned too.
(xiii) All activities are mixed up and centralized.
(xiv) Introduction of one way traffic may result in more congestion.
(xv) Street vendors and its customers on the footpath.

The list speaks volumes about the complexity of the problem. Therefore, technically, it may not be easy to find a common solution to these problems simply because all of them have been created by various actions that do not have common foundation. Separate and specific technological intervention may be required for each of the problems.

C. Other Notable Facts:

C.1 Imphal & its environment:

Imphal Town has an effective area of about 9 sq.kms only and the small space somehow manages to accommodate all the important public and private offices, Banks, reputed schools & colleges, hospitals and public places like markets, playgrounds, hotels and business centres etc. in addition to a couple of lakhs of residential buildings located in it . Several thousands of people from other districts also visit the capital town daily for varied personal purposes.

The small capital town is also well decorated here and there with all kinds of dirty elements that pile up gradually as a result of unsystematic and unethical management of solid waste, sewage and drainage system. The rivers that feed the capital town are also virtually becoming large size dust bins. In short, the place is highly polluted and the situation is going to multiply itself and make the life a miserable for all in a couple of decades.

C.2 Development Programmes in the Pipeline:

C.2.1 Smart City:

Perhaps, the ideal citizens of Imphal in particular and that of the State in general are always eager to see in its capital a Smart City which is visibly a standard of perfection, within an optimum time. In a Smart City, every activity is normally performed and completed under a well guided and systematically controlled mode.

Several electronic devices that promptly sensor, activate and guide the users round the clock, are extensively used in much advanced control systems which are installed at vital locations of the public places. The synergy always functions smoothly and reliably to make it sure that they never let the users fail except in highly unavoidable circumstances like sabotage.

Practically, the sophisticated IT or AI systems are run in tandem by a man-and-machine team. In other words, the man understands the language of the machine and the machine delivers the requirements of the users to the extent it is designed to response. Rather, both render service to the society in perfect synchronization round the clock. Virtually, a smart city never sleeps.

Essentially, the core infrastructure of a Smart City includes the following.

1. Flawless Connectivity with Parking Lot and Smart Public Transport.
2. Reliable Power Supply.
3. Adequate Water Supply.
4. Efficient/Well Equipped Health Care System.
5. Cleanliness & Sustainability.
6. Safety & Security of Life & Property.
7. Affordable Housing-especially for the poor.
8. Proper Sanitation and Solid Waste Management.
9. Education & Motivation.
10. Trouble free IT Connectivity & Digitization.
11. Good Governance-especially e-Governance & Participative Management.
12. Disciplined Citizen who is well conscious of his/her responsibilities.
13. Recreation Centres & parks.

Before other details are discussed, it is necessary first to establish a feasibility on whether the present area of the State Capital can accommodate all the above requisites of a Smart City in the desired manner, because it is pertinent.

C.2.2 Imphal Ring Road (IRR):

There is an ambitious ring road construction proposal in the offing. Realising the inconvenience being caused by congestion, the planners are perhaps making a deliberate attempt to decentralize the activities in the road sector alone.

However, the minor modification may not fetch the total solution which they are looking for, reasons being that the hub of activities where the traffic from different directions merge with each other, is not going to be changed. Moreover, it may not be a cost effective proposition.

C.2.3.Railway to the State:

Hopefully, the State capital is going to be a vibrant city that moves faster than its present speed, in a couple of years when the railway connecting Imphal with other cities of the country is complete and functional. It is also widely believed that the new addition in the connectivity will open up more opportunities that can enhance the economic and commercial performance of the people of the State.

Simultaneously, people from different areas shall also visit the State to exploit the different kinds of potentials. The capital shall also be more busy and congested following the increase in both the influx and the activities, Therefore, the question arises again as to whether the present size of the municipal area of Imphal is adequate enough to cater to the requirements of different sectors.

D. Technical Obstacles: Geological studies have revealed that a stratum of typical soil of varied thickness which has a very low load bearing capacity is found spreading over almost the entire valley area of the State at a varying depth below the surface. This kind of fault layer has posed constantly a threat to the stability of the massive construction in this congested area.

Therefore, the establishment of permissibility first by the competent geologists through the process of extensive geological mapping and geotechnical investigation, has become a pre-requisite activity for all kinds of major civil construction projects. The structural design engineers shall start detailed designing of multi storey city buildings based on the findings of the expensive exercise.

Secondly, being located in Zone-v of the seismic map, Imphal is an earthquake prone valley and therefore, it must not dream of having skyscrapers on its soil. These two technical obstacles, coupled with the space constraint, hardly encourage high rise building construction in Imphal for safety reasons. Consequently, the vertical expansion is restricted here.

Societal Engineering Approach

Societal Engineering is a concept which tries to encapsulate purpose and potential of engineering for development of the society and the nation. The aim of Societal Engineering is to cater to the daily requirement of life with powerful, quantitative and creative problem solving skills of engineers with a view to creating a social consciousness for improving the quality of life and a better society.

Now, therefore, further analysis of the man-made hindrance by using Societal Engineering approach will definitely show that the root cause of the problem is the centralization of many a number of activities at a common place. Each of the activities needs its own space and flexibility to adapt to different situations.

However, the available facilities do not provide for it. Therefore, the only possible way with which the crisis is surmountable, is the substantial expansion of the capital town which is otherwise very small and congested.

Master Plan

The expansion shall be followed by a detailed survey and demarcation. This activity will enable the planners and the designers to draw a physical map of the Imphal City where a Smart City is proposed to be planned and developed. Without knowing the exact area of the proposed site and also seeing the true pictures of already available components, it may not be possible to prepare a Master Plan of the city.

Moreover, without a Master plan which essentially shows Market Area, Institutional Area, Residential Area, Recreation Parks, Hospital Complex, Banks and other public & private official complex etc. development of a Smart City may not be meaningful and perfect.


1. Capital town is too small to accommodate all activities.
2. Development programmes in the pipeline suggest expansion upto the foothills.
3. Vertical Expansion is not encouraged by Geo-technical studies.
4. A Master Plan that can guide the development of the Smart City is a must.
5. The Master Plan shall be prepared on an approved physical map of the site.
6. Well planned market complex may be developed at Lamlong, Lamphel, Tera, Kwakeithel, Singjamei and Kongba etc. through retrofitting.
7. Imphal Ring Road (IRR) alignment may be incorporated in the Master Plan.
8. Implications - financial, political and administrative, may be taken into consideration while finalizing the Master Plan.

In addition, valuable services of experienced Architects, Engineers of different disciplines, Academicians and other knowledgeable persons are also required at important relevance.

* N Shyamsundar Singh FIE wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is Former Chairman, JERC for Manipur & Mizoram
This article was webcasted on March 14 2021.

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