TODAY -

On Imphal becoming a smart city of the twenty first century Manipur

Khelsoril Wanbe *

Bird eye view of Imphal Valley as seen from top of Cheiraoching :: August 29 2014
Bird eye view of Imphal Valley as seen from top of Cheiraoching in August 2014 :: Pix - Deepak Oinam



Imphal has a tremendous potential of becoming an internationally famous city if certain pre-conditions are properly fulfilled. But, as we all know, it is increasingly facing some difficult problems like traffic jams, frequent accidents, air and noise pollutions, water scarcity and flooding, poor public toilet etc. Imphal, especially its market areas, is almost every day encountering traffic jams for long minutes, if not hours.

The number of vehicles of all kinds have multiplied manifold over the last decade or so and besides these, private transport vehicles like Auto rickshaws, Tata Magics have been overflowing the narrow streets running in the middle as well as around Imphal markets. Vehicular permits have been given away almost unrestrictedly, apparently with a view to providing employment to maximum number of youth who have not been fortunate enough to buy/get government jobs.

The predicament that arises now is that of how this conflict between traffic crises on the one hand and employment and income generation on the other hand can be resolved. What we often witness in Manipur is that of conjuring up ad-hoc/short term solutions to arising and immediate problem or situation with little farsighted planning often resulting in unpleasant backlashes later on.

A replacement to the presently popular public transportation system with better and more suitable alternative may not be easy to come up with in the immediate future, but through thoughtful and careful re-planning and regulation of permit system, it might be possible to gradually bring down the number of our swarming light transport vehicles.

Another cause of sore eyes and extreme inconvenience that is being witnessed in Imphal is that of chaotic parking situation – double and even triple parking of all sorts of vehicles — on our congested narrow streets that wreak daily havoc and not failing to exert highly discouraging psychological effects on all the people that can’t help but have to pass through the narrow streets of Paona and Thangal Bazaars.

The valuable suggestions from our great planners and civil engineers for all the buildings of Imphal market to provide adequate space for parking by converting the ground floors or basements into parking space are worth giving thoughtful consideration.

However, there is the likelihood of these suggestions not getting welcome or positive response from the building owners as such arrangements are likely to cause some immediate painful inconveniences; and the government will need to provide adequate financial assistance in order to make this grand plan a success which, if successfully executed, will go a long way in reducing and eliminating the traffic crisis in the heart of our one and only Imphal city. Instead of dismantling the buildings and widening the roads, this plan of providing parking lots on the ground floor of each and every building is likely to considerably reduce the traffic crisis of Imphal.

However, availability of other better options cannot and should not be ruled out. Development of state of the art parking lots at several suitable points in the two markets could be another option. Proper prior consultation and negotiation with building owners should happen before any car/vehicle park plans are taken up.

There is also the need to develop and build new supermarkets at suitable places a little away from the present Imphal bazaars; but, at the same, caution needs to be taken against development of supermarkets and Big Bazaars at the cost of generations-old residential areas. There seem to have been some such unpleasant and unwarranted threats of public displacement in the name of road and other developments in the recent years. (To be contd)

Sole contract work or easy money making interests should never be the guiding principles of taking up development plans which could have the potential of whipping up public anger and fury.

Water is another real and present crisis as it remains a rather neglected daily commodity and necessity; the prediction of it becoming a petrol-like golden liquid seems to be fast becoming true. Water continues to be an ill-managed free gift of nature which, if properly harnessed, might not be as scarce or expensive as it is. We have abundant rains, ponds, lakes and rivers but we seem to have utterly failed in water management; but all hopes are not yet lost; there are still plenty ways to improve our water situation.

More water reservoirs and treatment plants need to be developed and constructed by investing more public funds. Imphal being a rapidly growing city, in terms of population, requires a lot of clean washing and drinking water at affordable price. The government too can earn a good deal of revenue from water supply. A smart city will surely require a lot of water for flushing, washing and drinking.

The functioning of our hospitals and clinics both private and public need to be properly looked after and monitored to provide reasonably cheap and affordable medical facilities and services to all the citizens belonging to different walks of life – from the poorest to the richest. Our hospitals and medical colleges need to treat the sick in the best way that they deserve, not as objects of experimentation and observation but as fellow human beings. There needs to be cordial relationship between the patient and physician parties; there shouldn’t be any kind of enmity and hostility between the two parties if we wish to see a healthy smart city.

Our educational system also needs to be properly tuned to the need of the time. Commercialism or profit making motive should not get the better of the hearts and minds of our educationists and teachers. To build a bright and prosperous society, our children should be trained with earnest sincerity, honesty and integrity. Majestic buildings and equipments alone cannot provide the best kind of education; what is more important is the dedication and sincerity of the teachers supplemented by proper parental care and guidance.

I’ve been asking this question whether schools with magnificent buildings and equipments provide the best kind of education; but the answer always seems to be “that cannot be guaranteed.” Dedication, sincerity and discipline of the teachers are indispensable for imparting true education to the children of our society.

Imphal is a city teeming with numerous private and public schools; in order to make our Imphal a smart city, we need to have smart schools and institutions that care less about heavy profit. The present culture of excessive craze for private coaching also needs to be properly toned down if we really want to bring about real quality rather than quantity education.

There have also been complaints galore against the free and virtually unrestricted passing of vehicles of VIPs and VVIPs in the midst of traffic melees and chaos, which seems to have become normal and usual phenomena; the angry suggestion is that there should be uniformed traffic rules that do not discriminate on the basis social status and position; but these complaints and suggestions seem to have been gently blowing against the deaf ears of the powerful and the mighty.

There is also the urgent need of proper public toilet system all around Imphal city. Our public toilet situation is indeed highly deplorable. All our so called public toilets/Sulabhs are not in presentable condition. We cannot expect to attract tourists from developed countries unless we first develop and maintain our public toilets properly. Good water supply is one pre-requisite for proper functioning and maintenance of public toilets.

Another very disturbing sight is that of dumping and littering of rubbish all over Imphal market. There is the need to create public awareness as to the necessity of disposing waste material at proper place. Dustbins need to be placed all over public places which should be regularly emptied and carried away for proper disposal by garbage vehicles. Spitting in the middle of the roads and streets too should be discouraged. Some mass public awareness campaign can be launched against spitting on wrong public places like streets, walls etc.

The problem of flooding can be avoided to a large extent by avoiding dumping of solid waste into the rivers and drains. Our rivers and drains are being encroached upon relentlessly leading to more flooding every year. The concerned government departments need to look into the matter seriously supplemented by public support and cooperation. Our drainage system needs to be regularly repaired and renovated.

Another very disturbing and worrying development is that of the sharp rise in the rate of accidents in the past few years in the wake of the rise in the number of bikes and other vehicles in Imphal and other districts of Manipur. I strongly feel that our roads are in highly dangerous condition. Our national and road highways need to have proper divider in the middle so that the incidence of head on collisions is brought down to a considerable extent.

And now that many of our roads have been renovated, I feel our roads need speed breakers at regular intervals and especially at crossing points with proper marking with bright paints of white or yellow in order for the speed breakers not cause negative results by posing as death-traps.

Some may object to the idea of placing speed breakers, but it is my sincere view that in the context of most of our young as well old bikers and drivers still being heavily adrenaline driven while driving their Harley Davidsons, Bullet Enfields, Toyota, Bolero, Scorpio, Chevrolet, BMW, Rolls Royce, we are still very much in need of speed breakers that may go a long way in preventing us from turning into smashed eggs in the middle of the roads, seriously and worryingly, I mean.


* Khelsoril Wanbe wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on December 15, 2015.


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