Making Imphal Smart


The growing congestion in Imphal is a cause for worry. A flyover or two more will hardly make a difference at this point. In fact, as pointed out in the debates over the suitability of the BT Road Flyover when it was first being commissioned, unless any particular flyover is able to lift traffic out of a congested area and land them at a distant non-congested area, it will only become a matter of shifting one point of congestion to another. The BT Road Flyover is indeed proving to be such. The government has also been making a serious effort to widen the city roads, and this we must say, is commendable, and if at all there are prices being paid by individual property owners along these roads, it is for a greater common good, and as we understand it, compensations paid for their losses are indeed suitable. The pattern has however been for property owners alone to get compensation, and not those who run small time businesses from rented spaces. Most of these businesses follow a territorial logic, and even if they were to set up the same businesses in other locations, chances are they will never find a foothold. The government, if fairness is the game, should think about them too.

However, despite all these efforts, the maddening congestion remains. This is because the planners continue to ignore certain vital needs of a growing city. To name just two simple and the obvious ones: traffic disciplining and a total restructuring of the parking norms. Of the former there is little left to be said. Of the latter, there is no gainsaying only insane city planners would continue to give the nod to heavy vehicle depots inside the core zone of the city. It would hence do well for the government to think of building a few more bus terminus away from the innermost layer of the city. In the last decade or so, as the city grew, even the bus depots at North AOC and Andro Parking, now appear ill located. One is reminded of what legendary American architect Frank Lloyd Wright famously said: When you think of building a home, go as far away from the city as possible, and when you think you have gone far enough, go out five miles more for the city will be upon you no sooner. In direct contrast to these depots in the city core, there are no proper parking spaces for small private vehicles anywhere near the Imphal city heart. A visit to Paona and Thangal Bazars will convince anybody of this. On and off, there have been government regulations against parking in the streets that cut through these busy bazars, but none of them has ever held. Currently too there is one such regulation, but it is anybody’s guess how permanent this will be before returning to the old ways of people parking their vehicles anywhere on the road. This is especially so because the officially designated parking areas are so limited in the vicinity of these shopping centers. The government must look into this and urgently think of parking spaces a little away from these bazars. While nobody can be expected to walk from home to shop, a bit of walking from nearby parking spaces, or else cycling will do shops as well as shoppers plenty of good. New constructions, especially hotels and malls, which we are sure will spring up rapidly sooner than later, must be obligated by law to have at least the ground floor or an underground one, as public parking spaces.

Very importantly, planners must also encourage walking and cycling. This can be done by making well paved and designated pedestrian paths as well as cycle tracks mandatory along all roads. Alongside these initiatives, the government must introduce an efficient public transport system so that private vehicles do not have to be always on the roads. It is unlikely city planners are unaware these are seen as the new age attributes of progressive cities all around the world. But then, Imphal is still a city where trees are cut so unscrupulously in the name of development, so it is not altogether impossible for those at the helm to not see these points of encouraging eco-friendly public commutation in the city as important.


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