Churachandpur-The chaos and mess !

    12-Sep-2022
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Ninglun Hanghal  
Recollecting an anecdote-as we came out from a meeting in New Lamka along Teddim road, we faced a not so easy exit in the midst of the traffic snarl. In the morning parking was not much of an issue, but by noon it was chaotic.
Our Bolero taxi engine took time to kick start. As the driver struggled and attempted to put his mind to making it work, it moved slowly somehow. But the on and off engine caused major chaos.
Unfortunately we caused a nuisance. All hell broke loose. We tried our best but the engine did not work. In the meantime it was not easy to seek emergency help on that busy road with everyone seemingly in a rush.  
We were mocked, abused left and right. Even those who did not utter a word gave us that look of “don’t you know the traffic situation in Lamka?” while some did not even bother.    
I started to shout and blame the driver. For a moment it felt like you are in an aggressive city like Delhi. After more than half an hour or so and with some help the vehicle could make a full start and move.
Later, I wondered why there was this street aggression in Lamka. Indeed the traffic all through the town was seriously stressful, dusty, chaotic, messy, noisy. The condition of the road is better left unsaid. I realised the general aggressiveness was not surprising at all.
Not only traffic, every monsoon, at the drop of a rain, Lamka gets clogged. Over decades flood submerges homes, residential colonies. The town would be literally run over by flood like a river in spate.
An important river Tuitha (Khuga) is now turning into a dumping site. The river which runs alongside the town on the eastern side serves as a convenient garbage disposal site. This zigzag river that has already caused enough havoc every year is now facing pressure from human waste. The serpentine river frequently changes its course and this is further aggravated by the huge quantity of solid urban waste-that includes human, bio, technology, plastic waste being thrown into it.
In the middle of this congested chaotic town stands the district hospital-which is in the process of further expansion. The backyard of the hospital is sickening and a nauseating sight.
In recent years the rural-urban migration is happening at an alarming pace. People in remote rural areas come to Lamka town to seek opportunities to earn an income. For those who could afford, they further migrate down to the capital city Imphal, while the majority are concentrated in Lamka. No doubt there is economic activity and a lot of “happenings” in Lamka thus providing income to a large number of people from the rural villages.
There is population pressure in Lamka. The overall district population of Churachandpur is 255,786 (census 2011) of which the urban population is 151,333 approx, which is about 55.2% of the total population.
Lamka is a visibly fast emerging urban town. In the present situation the town is unable to cope with the unruly urbanisation. Added to this is the absence of a visionary plan and policy. If at all a plan is in place, it is definitely either not implemented or a very short sighted one. Lamka scenario reflects the absence of a system and management.
In Manipur’s tribal areas or societies, the general public takes up philanthropic activities as a “way of life”. Such activities are carried out under Tribe based organisations or CSOs or concerned citizens. This is popularly known as “social work”.
Thus waste and its problems too is taken up on a “social work” basis. Waste is considered a common issue, a common problem requiring a common social activity. Thus we witness CSOs, NGOs, youths, concerned citizens clearing up litter, collecting garbage and cleaning up their colonies and neighbourhood. Social work too extends to towns, markets and public places.  
Even as voluntary, philanthropic activity, social works deserve an applause and appreciation, it needed a further deeper look into these “common” problems. These are not merely a few garbage or waste that can be cleaned-up or “managed” on the basis of a one-day social work by a few groups of youths. The problem cannot be solved as a one-time samaritan act and that too when it begins to stink.
Moreover, evolving urban societies cannot and should not be depending  on CSO/ NGOs or youth volunteers. It requires systematic measures, policies and programmes.  Most importantly a systematic approach and a visionary policy that should foresee at least 50 years ahead.
Over-all, it calls for an urgent attention over the situation in the district at large and Lamka in specific. Most crucial is the alarming situation of health hazards and environmental degradation.  
Given the un-planned nature, the un-preparedness of the district headquarter town Lamka, all of such situations lead to congestion, chaos, and mess, eventually generating huge amounts of waste and garbage. One problem leading to another, getting  intertwined and messed up.   
The process of urbanisation is not coming from outside nor is it an event that comes with a bang or an announcement. It is an evolving process and fast one at that, before people and concerned policy makers actually realise it- it is happening right in the face in Lamka.
In the current situation, the question is the function, role and responsibility of the local governance system in the district. In Lamka it is the Autonomous District Council that is supposed to be in-charge. But this basic governance system is non-functional or rather absent. Nor the ADC which is basically a rural entity, has the capacity to deal with the huge urbanisation challenge. The situation calls for an urgent need to look out and think of “out of the box” solutions, at least some form of management system for Lamka.