Why not a New Imphal City ?

Dr Rajkumar Giridhari Singh
In the quest for development and to make places of Manipur better connected by road, the Government of Manipur recently announced the expansion/widening of 79 numbers of State/districts/IVR roads of the State. This initiative as mentioned is aimed at easing the traffic congestion. As reported, some of these road expansions would require land acquisition along the road and some standing properties may also be affected. To the best of my knowledge till the write up of this article no dissent has yet come out of from the affected land owners against this initiative or dissent may pop up once acquisition of land starts.
It is well known to the public that the wellbeing of the citizens requires adequate road and transport connections, water and sewage network, electricity supply, waste management system. To put it simple, well-developed infrastructure favours economic and social development and better standard of living of the people. Road expansion and broadening of road indeed is a welcome step.
As per the World Bank report today more than 50 percent of population live in cities. This trend is going to continue and by 2050 the urban population will double its current size and expected that seven of the ten people in the world will live in cities. The rapid rise of population along with the speed and scale of urbanization has brought many challenges including fast deterioration in the quality of life for the majority of the people. Urbanization requires keeping up with the pace in meeting the demand for adequate and proper infrastructure including affordable housing, wider good roads, well-connected transport systems, potable water facilities, public health facilities, etc.
India too has been experiencing a phenomenal rate of urban growth during last two-three decades. Thanks to the increasing industrial and commercial advantages of the cities the rapid growth of urban population has resulted in the deterioration of the quality of life of the people living in the city. It can be observed that the developments inputs in infrastructure and civic amenities of the population are inadequate as it could not keep pace with the desired level. We have witnessed traffic jams, climate deterioration, insufficient water and power supply in various cities of the country. Numerous consequences of urbanization can be discussed however one very phenomenal affect is the issue of traffic congestion.
Imphal city the capital of Manipur is no exception to the reality of challenges given by the growing rise of the urbanization. It has been experiencing unpredictable growth of population. Imphal, being the capital of the State is the centre of administration, attracts people from rural and urban both from the hills and other parts of the valley. It is a centre of many aspects of academic, commercial, political, cultural, scientific, innovation and what not? It has an international airport that provides flights to various cities of the country. At present the city is not yet connected with railway line but a proposal to connect the city with railway line is under execution. The Look East/Act East Policy of the Government of India and the Trans Asian Highway as designed is going to connect India with several South East Asian countries and stretch through Manipur opens up wider possibilities of Imphal being flooded with more activities and population.
At present it is seen that Imphal city remains plagued with traffic congestion, feeble sewerage system, and frequent flood during rainy season, mounting urban wastes and inadequate potable water supply. One of the most significant points that needs to keep Imphal city clean is the solid waste management. Being a resident of greater Imphal the faith of family of the city can be imagined as waste collection is not effective and inappropriate whereby garbage and wastes are not regularly collected by the outsourced firms of the Imphal Municipality Corporation. There is also inadequate parks and public amenities such as public transport and parking. Traffic management is still a big challenge and needs radical changes.
In the recent times we have seen various initiatives of the Government to make Imphal a smart city which is welcoming and heartening. Honorable Chief Minister of the State has also announced that keeping in mind of about four-five decades ahead there would be expansion of roads in and around the Imphal city for smooth traffic and make it convenient for the people by having a wider road. The recent announcement in the first week of June 2022 of the expansion/widening of 79 numbers of State/districts/IVR roads of the State is one such concrete policy of the Government of Manipur. In many instances earlier also we have seen the streets of the Imphal (highways) have been expanded either by removing the encroachers or by acquiring the private patta land (of course giving compensation to the affected parties). While expansion of roads is highly appreciated for development of the city and people would not and cannot mind the encroached land being evacuated however asking the patta land owners to sacrifice land for development may lead to deteriorating consequences. Through compensation the land owners may be accommodated to other places of the city however land carries emotion, culture and bonding. Its not easier for many to get displaced from their ancestral land and get adjusted to a new and unfamiliar place (or leikai). People may have been sacrificing for the cause of development of greater goods but these should not be the cause of conflict for the people and the authority. Road expansion and broadening should not result in forcibly displaced people living in urban areas.
At present the city has no public transport system for its people. People commute on auto rickshaws on shared basis and private vehicles (cars, scooty, bikes) which add to the traffic congestion in the city. Building a city does not end with the broadening of road alone it requires more comprehensive sustainable development. With the increasing population more land will be required for residential, recreational development, commercial use, industrial use both for public and private. A city needs robust infrastructure which is well connected to other parts of the State and country with basic infrastructure like roads, water and electricity. Infrastructure is a specific substructure, or subsystem of urban structure which supports development of the city. It requires housing, schools and community centre, new parks, playgrounds, auditoriums, adequate utility services, hospitals, banks, hotels, restaurants, malls, multiplexes and other shops.
Keeping in mind the environmental effectiveness, economical affordability and social acceptance points, there is a need to search for suitable land for urban expansion as there is physical limitation to the growth of the city. If it is not done, there will be crisis and chaos in near future. We can think in the line of how Navi Mumbai is created away from Mumbai or New Delhi is created away from Old Delhi. To shape the future development of the State and to create opportunities for all,searching of new suitable land for urban expansion beyond greater Imphal is badly needed. WHY NOT WE HAVE A NEW IMPHAL CITY ?

The writer is Assistant Professor, Department of Management, Mizoram University, [email protected]