Sunday, December 3, 2023

Careless citizens

For the last more than a decade, the responsibility, sensibility and smartness of our people has reached full stop. Literally, the built-environment of Dimapur as well as Kohima is being destroyed from every corner by violators and encroachers. Dimapur and Kohima, the two major cities/towns of the state is turning ugly day by day with slum like situation and simultaneously going through worst kind of environmental degradation. Mayhem of the mindless development is crippling the cities by way of reducing green cover, thereby taking a heavy toll on the sponge character of the two cities and its fragile ecology. Two reasons behind the worsening conditions include encroachments and violations. People encroach or illegally occupy any kind of available government land, forest land, nullahs & other water bodies, public roads, open spaces & social/community spaces, etc. Such kind of attitude has become a usual habit as everyone tries to grab whatever they can. The built-up area has tremendous effect and impact the future of the cities. Here violation normally means illegal/unauthorized constructions or deviations from the sanctioned permission. In the first category, the owner or developer does not approach the concerned authorities for building/development permission and constructs structures without permission. Secondly, even if the intending owner/developer obtains permission from the competent authorities, still they violate or deviate (wholly or partially) from the granted permission. More human intervention in the natural environment means more problems. Therefore, one can conclude: man is the main problem. However, s/he can be a solution too. Once a plan is formulated for the whole city, it has to have a logical sense in terms of environmental improvement, conserving more of the natural elements, increasing the green spaces/recreational areas, conserving water bodies/wetlands so that city lives a fuller life and provides congenial environment to the inhabitants. The idea of sustainability of a city has become more relevant due to over exploitation of natural resources. If the two cities are left to the complete choice of its citizens, then even God cannot save it because of the greed and selfishness of the people. That is why rules/regulations and bye-laws help in the environmental sustainability of a city region. In fact minor violations (as provided in bye-laws) may be tolerable but major violations have tremendous impact on the city environment. One persistent problem that we face is the encroachment of right of way or building line. The right of way is the actual existing/proposed width of the road and building line is the distance of the structure from the centre of the road (existing/proposed). We see people constructing houses/shops/complexes on the edges of road in a linear fashion, thereby creating bottlenecks for road widening. Also people park their vehicles on public roads in the absence of parking facility, thereby creating traffic jams etc. Our roads are very old and have not been widened enough to its full potential width. In case of a future widening, there is a margin in the form of building line. Building line is the only tool available for planners to meet futuristic mobility needs of an ever growing population of a city. Once building line is encroached, the hope of road widening decreases. The thing is that city belongs to citizens and citizens have to have civic sense, otherwise the city by itself has no cure for its ills. The carelessness of citizens does impact and affect the soul of the city and the soul of the city is its wetlands, water-bodies, green vistas, the mountains, open spaces, roads/footpaths, social/community spaces, children’s play areas and its heritage/culture, etc. Health, hygiene and happiness is the core focus for a city and if the citizens do not acknowledge the rights of the city, the rights of the building/structure, the rights of its inhabitants, the rights of the neighbours, the laws of the land, then, we should accept self-destructive destiny without blaming anyone else for the mess we are in – be it God or the Government. The city is calling its careless and carefree citizens to be careful and mindful of mindless development which is crippling the city, be conscious of civic sense, be aware of environmental & ecological issues, and be active and participatory in clean and green policy, to work more for inclusive development so that every citizen lives to his/her full potential.