Constant unplanned and unchecked construction in Imphal urban areas as a process of rapid urbanisation is not only affecting the surrounding environment but also effecting microclimatic changes of the places whereby the place is becoming warmer than other semi periphery or periphery areas.
Imphal Urban Areas is becoming one of the most favourable places to settle because of easy accessibility of all kinds of services, facilities such as health and education and being the economic hub of the state.
According to the 1991 census report, the number of population in Imphal West urban areas was 1,43,346 and Imphal East was 64,181; in 2001, it rose to 1,55,675 in urban areas of Imphal West and 72,744 in urban areas of Imphal East and in 2011, it shot up to 1,93,459 in urban areas of Imphal West and 83,737 in Imphal East.
Increase in demographic figures in Imphal urban areas is one of the major reasons for the mushrooming of concrete buildings, setting up of new establishments, shops etc.
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Increase in unplanned construction not only shrinks land resources but also pollutes the air, water and land. Besides, average temperature of these areas is higher than other semi-periphery and rural areas because of greater absorption, retention and generation of heat in its buildings, pavements and human activities.
When the city is already facing the brunt of rapid urbanisation, climate change which is considered as a global phenomenon is intensifying the impact.
Manipur is one of the states where the forefathers were considered highly civilized and have great civic sense. During those days, every household used to maintain a pond, segregation centre for waste materials, and a courtyard as mandatory components in their living. And, every locality had a public pond and ground for recreation and public activity. However, due to land constraints, such life culture is now vanishing. Even the drainage system is poorly maintained causing unhygienic surroundings.
In an interaction with retired professor, N Deva Singh, Geography, Manipur University, it was pointed out that urbanisation is an indicator of development which is determined by the percentage of urban population and total population of the region. However, improper urban development or urban sprawl will have a negative impact on society. To prevent such consequences, monitoring the urban growth pattern, effective resource utilisation and decentralisation of infrastructure, establishments are the key concerns.
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Deva Singh said that Imphal City is one of the fastest urbanizing cities in the state. As per the data collected, build-up land in 1989 is 19 per cent of the total areas of the region but it has been increased to 32 per cent in 2020. The area covered for agricultural activities in 1989 was 45 per cent of total area but this size has been reduced to 33 per cent in 2020.
Imphal has emerged as a primate city where all the infrastructures and developmental activities are centralised in the region. This has resulted to face the brunt urban floods, inadequate drainage system, lack of potable water supply, narrow roads, traffic congestion, improper management of urban waste, pollution of rivers passes Imphal City, etc, he added while suggesting that decentralised distribution of land resources by providing similar facilities at the district headquarters and other townships are some of the best strategies to be adopted soon. Otherwise Imphal would become the most unpleasant place to settle after some years.
In an interview with the joint director of the Directorate of Environment and Climate Change, T Brajakumar said that Imphal city can be considered as one of the fastest growing cities in the state seeing the development taking place in the region. However, the change should be brought in such a way that can withstand climate change impact.
Rapid urbanization increases climate risk and makes people more vulnerable to the impact of climate change as urbanization is directly linked to degradation of the environment including air, water and soil, he added.
Brajakumar informed that even within the Imphal city there are many slum like areas where residents are unable to afford a decent living standard. Besides, many floating populations also settled in Imphal city. This has led to the failure of proper implementation of urban plans and policies.
“The state government used to take up projects in particular areas based on population. For example, the solid waste management project or tap water connection project has taken up the capacity of the region. However the floating population which is not counted as urban population gets to access the service that resulted in inadequacy of the project,” he explained.
Brajakumar said that Imphal city is hotter than any other places in Manipur because of emission of more green-house gases, heat released from concrete buildings, etc. This will obviously increase dependence on air conditioner, fan and other electric appliances to bear the heat. With all these factors, Imphal City is susceptible to a disturbed micro-climatic condition.
Observing the environmental degradation brought on by urbanisation coupled with climate change, promotion of climate resilient infrastructure, e-transport system, restriction of population growth in Imphal city is the need of hour. Else, the place could become the most uncomfortable place to stay in the region.
Chief Town Planner, Town Planning department, N Benju Singh said that owing to rapid urbanisation, Imphal city has witnessed many changes over the years that give both positive and negative impacts. Initiatives are being taken up to keep these changes under control in the effort to prevent any eventuality.
Benju Singh further said considering the climate change scenario worsened by the process of urbanisation, the state government amended Building Bye-Laws in the year 2019. Under this law, there is a provision of green building in which all buildings on various plot sizes above 100 sq m should comply with the green norm. This has to be followed both in residential and non-residential areas.
As per this law, installation of solar photovoltaic panels, solar assisted water heating system, segregation of waste low energy lighting fixtures, lighting of common areas by solar energy and LED etc.
This Act also mentioned keeping 20 per cent of total area of plot as unpaved area to recharge groundwater.
For promotion of rainwater harvesting, provision of earmarking area for collection of rainwater is also included. There is also a norm of planting three trees while cutting down every one tree, he added.
He also said that there is no scope of horizontal expansion due to increase in construction. As a measure to conserve land, the number of building storeys has been increased to seven from three.
Benju said people hardly follow this law. But the law has been strictly enforced for construction of business establishments, as a master plan that has to be approved from the Town Planning department is mandatory while taking bank loans.
Apart from this, completion certificates of newly constructed buildings will be issued if all the above green norms are adhered. Recently an online building permission system was launched with an objective to promote building bye laws.
The chief town planner said that under the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation-II, projects for construction of Rainwater Harvesting Park and Oxygen Park near the vicinity of Solid Waste Management Plant are envisaged. In this Rainwater Harvesting Park, various techniques of rainwater harvesting would be displayed and in Oxygen Park, a unique bamboo type that can produce high amounts of oxygen will be planted to act as carbon sequestration, he said.
Purification of water bodies has started, he said. They are the inner moat and outer moat of Kangla, moat of Sagolband Bijoy Govinda or Sagolband Bijoy Govinda Thanga-pat and Wangkhei Ningthem Pukhri, he added.
According to a report of the United Nations, urban areas are major contributors to climate change as two-thirds of green-house gas emitted and energy are consumed. It also stated that cities are already suffering from extreme weather events, flooding, storms, heat waves, water scarcity, droughts etc.
Impact of climate change has also reached Manipur. Yet, cases of climate-sensitive health issues caused by extreme temperatures like heat stroke, heat stress, exacerbation of heart and lungs are hardly reported in the state.
The state being blessed with pleasant climatic conditions because of its geographical location may help to prevent such eventualities. But there is no guarantee that the state would not face instances of extreme heat-related health issues if the present trend of urbanisation is not properly checked or regulated.