Under the Smart City Mission, construction of Mall Road on a small stretch of Thangal Bazar from entry point up to Kasturi building with concrete pavement has been completed and open to the public now. This is indeed a good initiative. However, we would like to make a few suggestions.
The first suggestion is 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. Again, non-motorized transport could be introduced, including cycling tracks besides the pedestrian-only movement in the core area.
Besides the Mall Road, the state developed a riverside getaway on the eastern side of Kangla along the Imphalriver which went on to become a hit among the leisure starved general public of Imphal city. The state is also planning to develop Streets of People in the heart of the town which aims to be more lively and vibrant.
It plans to develop these leisure streets along the stretch leading from BT Road alongside Johnstone School adjacent to BT Park and in the New Checkon area starting from the newly constructed KanglaNongpokthong. It will have a cycle track, open museum and an emergency lane. Well, one must say it is a good initiative.
However, the concept of a Smart City does not mean such piecemeal ideas of smartness in some pockets or isolated spots but a holistic approach to Imphal city as such. For that, the special purpose vehicle ‘Imphal Smart City Mission’ tasked with the development of a holistic plan needs overhauling and installing a new team with imagination. Smartness of a city does not necessarily mean development of leisure spots, but in making the city liveable and people friendly with clean atmosphere, good connectivity, cleanliness and good mobility etc.
Another of our suggestions is that 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. If we remember correctly, the State cabinet had earlier decided to move godowns from the core area to the periphery areas. Same could be done in the case of Bazar residents, in line with the concept of a Smart City.
The business lobby would certainly be up in arms both in the cases of pedestrian-only streets and declaring of the core area as a commercial zone. That much is guaranteed. But it has to be dealt with in public interest. Yes, a strong political will is needed. We would like to once again flag the issue of pedestrian-only streets.