Unauthorised structures in Imphal city
IFP Editorial: Imphal city has a history of land grabbing by powerful persons in connivance with city officials and it is happening because of the delay in finalising a city master-plan with legislative backing.
There was a report in one vernacular daily that some illegal structures have come up over the Naga River and some other places and shops are encroaching upon the footpaths. Of course, the illegal structures meant to be shops seems to have been constructed during the curfew. After concrete embankments were made from Khoyathong point to Maharani Bridge of the Naga River, it was covered with concrete slabs to prevent people especially market women from throwing waste into the river. It was recently converted as a parking area for residents of the bazar area. But, the upper section of the river still remains wide open and people living on the banks continue to use it as a nullah. As far as we remember, the original idea of covering the Naga River with concrete slabs was aimed at preventing people from dumping waste in the river while also providing public parking to shoppers coming to the market which may or may not include vehicles of the bazar residents. Not being briefed properly by MAHUD officials, Chief Minister N Biren Singh had allowed parking for the residents of Thangal and Paona Keithel for their vehicles in the parking lots allotted over the slab-covered Naga River. Well, disallowing permanent parking in the main bazar is a good step. But, turning it into an exclusive parking area for the residents of the bazar was not.
Coming back to the question of unauthorised structures over the slabs covering the Naga nullah and some other places, it is simply unthinkable that it would have gone un-noticed by city officials during construction. Imphal city has a history of land grabbing by powerful persons in connivance with city officials and it is happening because of the delay in finalising a city master-plan with legislative backing. Proposals keep changing on the whims of the politicians and city officials. For example, what we are going to do in the temporary market area, which came up after demolishing the historic District hospital. The Imphal Smart City mission is yet to take a final shape, with only a fraction of the initial outlay invested in some cosmetic changes like the Mall Road, while a major chunk has gone into IT sector. We sometimes wonder, what the special purpose vehicle created for developing the smart city concept in the form of a company doing? It is time for the company to be headed by a professional instead of some official who cannot even imagine the nuts and bolts of a smart city or city planning.
We had flagged two issues which concerns the smart city initiative. The first suggestion was of making the entire stretches of Paona Bazar and Thangal Bazar pedestrian-only streets while the second is declaring the entire core bazar area as commercial zones. Pedestrian-only streets prioritize people and are typically most appropriate in corridors with commercial activity on both edges of the street. The pedestrian volume is high in these streets and so vehicular traffic should be restricted. These streets offer opportunities for diverse activities such as shopping or sitting, dining or performing. When placed, designed, and maintained well, pedestrian-only streets become a destination in itself and result in economic benefits for adjacent businesses. The night plaza introduced by the present government in its early days on the Kangla Pat stretch, in an effort to bring back night life in Imphal city can move over to these streets once construction of the Mall Road is finished. Moving over to the suggestion of commercial zone, our main issue is with the residents of the core bazar area. Only business and commercial activities should be allowed in these two bazar areas and the present residents should move elsewhere probably in an enclave for the business community provided by the state.