Thursday, March 30, 2023

Paradise lost

Kohima, once known for its natural environment and beauty, has lost its grandeur years back due to wrong urban development planning. Over the decades it has expanded exponentially and unplanned, quite contrary to what an ideal city should have been. Messy on all counts, which is not what a smart city should be like. Smart City project is a proposal initiated by the Centre to enhance the amenities, beautify and uplift the already existing cities that will be upgraded to the demands of its affording population, be in line with the green norms, and cater to the domestic as well as international touristic influx. Four years back, Nagaland’s only Smart City was declared as the second move unliveable city in India, ranking 110 out of 111 cities in the Ease of Living Index (EoLI) 2018. In the EoLI 2021 ranking, the state capital had improved its ranking but still remains the 13th most unliveable city in India out of 62 cities in under a million population. For this, we should not blame each other because as a society we all are responsible for this mess. The politicians, administration and the people, are the members of the society who ultimately form the State in wider terms of political science. So far the memory goes, no politician who held the seat of power has ever thought or tried to plan Kohima as a really liveable city. The mass urbanization and migration of people from rural areas to settle in the capital city has further worsened the situation, and brought much pressure on the limited space and original inhabitants of the city. Kohima city was not so large in area to bear the brunt of such a heavy influx of rural population and this ultimately resulted in the congestion of this beautiful city. The unabated encroachment on government land and wetland has deprived the city from keeping a buffer for absorbing extra rainy waters. The performance of Kohima Municipal Council has also remained dismal as per MPI survey conducted recently by the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs. The KMC has been slow in implementing municipal laws and regulations and callous in taking action against violators of these laws. Citizens also lack the spirit of volunteerism and community service. We totally depend on the services of government, which is not good for meeting the situation in times of exigency. At the same time, due to increased volume of traffic and shortage of alternative roads for dispersal, the traffic congestion in the city has further worsened. The unabated permission to commercial units in residential areas in the city, without keeping the provision of parking spaces, has made the situation even worse. Most of the time instead of a standard and up-to-date management in city affairs, the authorities try something temporary and silly, totally contrary to scientific principles. There are many examples of such (mis)endeavours in everything around, some visible to eye and most seen by keen minds only. In a good city, one gets the feel of traffic management by clean, well laid out, and adequately labelled roads, appropriate signs and markings, apt manpower and all this is scientifically done. But here we have traffic managed by the whims and gusto of the traffic walla. Traffic is and will be a disaster, as has been foreseen by many, unless it is handled scientifically by the relevant department. Roads are nearly the same but are now divided into two. One has to have a divider that is scientifically done so that at times of emergency such a divider proves to be useful rather than a deterrent. Kohima has failed master plans, human intervention and even nature’s own plan (annual landslides); thanks to abysmal planning and lack of coordination which has led to a huge decline in the stature of this city. This city was once smart, but made less smart by decades of despondency, dis-coordination and the uncertainty. Today, Kohima city appears to be a paradise lost. The dream of developing it into a smart city perhaps could be fulfilled only when it improves its ranking in the index of most liveable cities of the country.