The problem of traffic congestion and finding a good parking space, one of the civic amenities in the ever-growing urban areas, is becoming a nightmare for most commuters and vehicle drivers in Manipur’s capital Imphal with the increase in the number of vehicles in the city over the years. The problem of parking and traffic congestion is seen more in major market areas such as Thangal Bazar and Paona Bazar, which have small roads running through them and the roads cannot be expanded. In the effort to reduce traffic in market areas, efforts were made. But the plight of the commuters and the problem of traffic congestion continue to grow as authorities concerned often tend to look the other way and failed to ensure proper implementation of the steps taken.
Both Thangal and Paona markets, along with Ima Keithel (market) are located in the heart of Imphal city. Hence, congestion in these market areas leads to traffic problems along other roads.
To ease traffic congestion along the stretch of Thangal Bazar, the state government built the Naga Nullah Public Parking facility. It was inaugurated on January 26, 2020. But it appears that officials concerned have, so far, failed to prevent misuse and ensure proper utilisation of the parking facility for the public. Owing to it, the market area remained congested with a huge number of vehicles parked along the road on the Thangal Bazar stretch. The failure of officials concerned to address the problem is posing a harrowing time to commuters.
The multi-storey Naga Nullah public parking facility was constructed under the Smart City Plan in Imphal area during the previous tenure of N Biren Singh as Chief Minister in the BJP-led coalition government, with the aim to address traffic woes and the plight of the people, especially for people living around the Thangal Bazaar area. However, the traffic volume inside the market area increased over the years and no authority concerned has been looking into the matter.
When this Imphal Free Press reporter inspected the situation in the Thangal Bazar area recently, several vehicles, including two and four wheelers, were parked in the market area and not in the public parking space. The parked vehicles were seen taking up much of the road space, causing much inconvenience to the commuters. Surprisingly, Imphal Municipality Corporation (IMC) staff, wearing IMC jackets, were also seen issuing parking tickets for those vehicles parked in the market area. And, nobody seems to be complaining.
Earlier, during the inauguration of the new public parking space in January 2020, the chief minister had said that “no permanent parking will be allowed in Thangal and Paona bazars”. For the residents of Paona Bazar, a temporary parking space was allotted near the Johnstone Higher Secondary School located near Bir Tikendrajit Road in Imphal.
Addressing the inauguration of the parking facility, the chief minister had issued instructions to vehicle owners of Thangal Bazar area to park their vehicles only in the public parking area allotted by the Municipal Administration, Housing & Urban Development (MAHUD), Manipur, and to avoid parking in the market area. However, the chief minister’s appeal seems to have been long forgotten.
According to officials, the public parking space built over Naga Nullah can accommodate around 116 four-wheeler vehicles, and a total of 106 vehicle owners were identified for the Thangal Bazar area whose vehicles would be parked in the allotted space. Shopkeepers, who are residing in nearby market places, were allowed to drop and pick up by drivers or family members to their respective shops.
During an interaction with the Imphal Free Press, one senior citizen of Imphal named Ng Chandramani said that being a pedestrian, he was happy to learn that there will be no more vehicle parking in the Thangal Bazar area. “However, the effect of the chief minister’s instruction lasted for the first two-three days since the inauguration of the public parking space built over the Naga Nullah. After that, more vehicles started parking along Thangal Bazar stretch,” he said.
“I was also glad to learn of the chief minister’s initiative that allows no parking of vehicles inside the Thangal Bazar. Senior citizens like me or any other person can go safely to the market to buy essential items. But now, one can see several vehicles parked in the middle of Thangal Bazaar road daily,” said Chandramani.
He said the city police are also not taking any stringent measures to control the parking on Thangal market stretch.
“The public parking system was launched to control the traffic congestion, but where is the system?” Chandramani asked.
As this Imphal Free Press reporter continued the inspection along the Thangal Bazar stretch, some areas of the footpath were occupied by shopkeepers for their personal use. Even automobile repairing shops utilise the footpath area in front of their shops and more than half of the road space is seen utilised for their personal use.
Some areas of the parking space of ‘Naga Nullah’ were seen occupied by ‘street motor vendors’ for the entire day and commuters parked their vehicles near the Nagamapal road, occupying about half of the road space.
Meanwhile, the Naga Nullah public parking space was utilised to stock construction materials.
Misuse of public utility and failure to check on the part of officials concerned and ensure proper parking of vehicles is adding to the problem of traffic congestion. The traffic is often heavy during the peak hour in the morning and evening along the Nagamapal road in Imphal West. And the number of vehicles is increasing every year.
It may be mentioned that Thangal Bazar Road was recently beautified. The beautified road was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to Imphal ahead of the 12th Manipur Legislative Assembly election. It is becoming a favourite spot for the people during late evening. The decorative lights and beautified road pavement attract the youngsters. Some could be seen taking video footage of it.
To retain its beautification, no vehicles are allowed to enter the beautified market Road. However, two wheelers were seen parking along the road. When this IFP reporter enquired about it to some shopkeepers, they said the parked two wheelers belong to the owners of shops and some of them belong to police personnel who are on duty to prevent the entry of vehicles inside the road.
To prevent vehicles from entering the road, a team of City Police in a vehicle, using a loudspeaker, warned vehicle drivers not to enter the same road from ‘Samu Makhong’ (Elephant Statue) area.
It may also be mentioned that garbage was found piled up in front of some shops along the stretch of the newly inaugurated road along Thangal bazar leading towards Ima Keithel (market) in Khwairamband and its surrounding areas. This civic issue was highlighted by the Imphal Free Press in its exclusive report entitled: Garbage piled up on beautified road inaugurated by PM Modi in Imphal.