TODAY -

Manipur: The Change & Sustainability

Prithiraj Chungkham *



Charles Darwin said "It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change” and Benjamin Franklin said “When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.

Manipur is changing, some good and some bad, and in the last couple of years the change has been gaining momentum and likely to accelerate in the near future with opening up amongst Asian giants. Is this change the harbinger of the proverbial saying that it will become a golden land when the golden gate is open? Like most of us, I have no doubt about it, looking at the geo-strategical location of this tiny state which is the natural gateway between the economic giants of Indian Sub-continent to the west and Southeast Asian countries and China to the east. Will this golden change bring the golden days or doom for the natives of this land? Well, I believe it is all up to us, to be adaptable or not be adaptable!

Manipur has been a melting pot communally, socially and religiously and will continue so because of its location. In the earlier past our forefathers had done a great job of thriving together whilst in the recent past we have been doing a very bad job of it and now we are at a very difficult crossroad. At this juncture if we continue to be divided then it is a sure ticket to our common doom. We can see so many examples in history and present day world.

Two of the root causes of the divides and backwardness are lack of sustainable development and connectivity, which I believe most of us will agree. In the light of current shebang of Imphal becoming a smart city, indeed, we should be going a bit further and plan for a smart Manipur. Here are my two cents thoughts, which I believe are not new ideas nor original but just a timely reminder.

Sustainable development

The Imphal Valley needs to be preserved for our livelihood, for our basic need of rice, vegetables, fish and livestock. Years of unplanned developments have led to current explosive situation with frequent flooding, clogged drainage, contaminated water, frequent traffic jams and ultimately people are forced to live in very unhygienic surroundings. More and more agricultural lands are losing to constructions and we have become dependent to outsiders for almost all our basic needs. This is certainly not a sustainable way to develop. The valley should be left alone with only minimum of facilities such as historical monuments, centralized institutes and anything that we think appropriate to be in the valley. Indeed, we should start reclaiming back the land gradually. Of course, it will be impossible and politically incorrect to force everyone to leave the valley and live in the surrounding hills but we can at least minimize and stabilize the pressure on the land by developing housing complexes with modern amenities in the surrounding low lying hills and encourage people, particularly the younger generation, with various incentives and attractions. The Housing Development Area (see map) proposed here represent 20 km buffer around the valley.

 Map showing locations of proposed principal ring roads and housing development area on a digital elevation model. The locations are approximate and exact locations are subject to Environmental Impact Studies, existing infrastructures and habitations. All the existing roads are not plotted for clarity.
Fig.1. Map showing locations of proposed principal ring roads and housing development area on a digital elevation model. The locations are approximate and exact locations are subject to Environmental Impact Studies, existing infrastructures and habitations. All the existing roads are not plotted for clarity.



Connectivity

Romans Empire was a great one and one thing they were good was making excellent roads and establishing connectivity among various civilizations. A world class Outer Ring Road (see map) all around the valley where it abuts the hill would greatly facilitate connectivity to various towns and villages located in higher mountains and also for commuting along the housing complexes in low hills without having to cross the valley. A futuristic provision for a parallel Outer Tram Way is desirable when housing complexes are fully developed and our economic condition improves.

An Inner Ring Road and a parallel Inner Tram Way around the Imphal City are warranted to unclog the traffic jam and congestion. Building various parking lots along the ring road, all the roads within city limit provided with separate and ample lane for bicycle, providing efficient public transports crisscrossing the city and rental bicycles at places can make the city a vehicle free, green and a smart one. With sunshine year around, we should consider solar powered trams and busses.

The Loktak Lake is one of our great assets in terms of the white gold (water), fisheries and scenery. Building a Circle Road around it will facilitate in developing and preserving the lake with easy and fast access to any part of it. A parallel Circle Tram Way would be a great tourist attraction and help with day-to-day cheap transport around the lake.

Conclusion

Having travelled a bit around the globe, some of my simple observations are; people are the same everywhere, each one is proud of their family, community and native land. The developed and fast developing nations are characterized by cheap access to three basic amenities namely, Connectivity, Electricity and Portable Water, of course, beside the good food which we already have. Our government now should give priorities to guarantee these three basic amenities; the rest of developments shall come naturally because each one of us has dream, hope and inspiration and we should not be spending most of our time trying to fulfill the basic requirements, while our capabilities are enormous and the sky is the limit.

I wish all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.


* Prithiraj Chungkham wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer is a geologist based in Geneva, Switzerland can be reached at Prithirajchungkham(aT)hotmail(doT)com
This article was posted on December 24, 2015.


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