Saturday, May 25, 2024

Urbanization policy

Urban settlements in Nagaland ranging in size from small agrarian/tourist towns to giant buzzing city like Dimapur during the last few decades have grown at an unprecedented rate with auto-urbanization and migration almost balanced. Two major cities of the State – Dimapur and Kohima constitute maximum number of urban population. People living in the urban areas will likely become a reality of staggering magnitude. The State can no longer afford to regard cities/towns with benign neglect and they require our full attention. Dimapur/Kohima consistently grow in spatial spread and population load without upgrading infrastructure and employment capabilities to cope up with the additional population. The Government’s approach to urbanization in Nagaland has been apathetic. It is expecting that cities would somehow solve problems on their own. Worst part is that the State Government is not having an urbanization policy. Our approach to capital city Kohima is that it’s big, has its needs and therefore, allot/sanction ‘X’ amount for the water, ‘X’ amount for road improvement, all utterly lacking cohesion. Similarly with Dimapur the approach adopted is no different, if Kohima is given one bridge, give one to Dimapur, if road improvement is sanctioned for Dimapur, than similar improvement is sanctioned for Kohima. This process is going on without looking into rationality of decisions and proposals. It manifests that despite having master plans, the Government has till date adopted it purely on ad hoc approach. If it continues Kohima/Dimapur and other towns will get disarrayed, reach to critical mass and will melt down. In urban development sector a programme of explicit State intervention is imperative to direct and modify the course of future urbanization. This programme needs to blend positive development and preventive controls. A large galaxy of small and medium towns need to be given the necessary stimuli and impetus by way of fiscal capital particularly investment in infrastructure. Control of land uses through obsolete practice of master plans is inadequate, whole range of policy instrument including critical needs of cities need to be considered including convergence, reforms and pricing policies for services. Planning and development of urban centers necessitates a step forward by making it practically broad based, inclusive, integrative and collaborative. Future strategy for urbanization need to ensure adequate funds/investment in the urban priority sectors with focus on capital cities and district headquarters, service/ tourist towns to develop these to a level, capable of sustaining economic growth and offering opportunities for employment. A great deal of financial capital will be required to support urban development demands, however, as economic activities would grow these are expected to plough back the invested resources. In comparison to ad hoc policies, these decisions would invigorate old towns and justify investment in small and medium towns. The crucial difference of using resources in the manner proposed would streamline the future rather than merely following a trail of expected disasters resulting from passive neglect. Like our national and state plans, planned urban development in the state needs to adopt a new path. Existing ineffective master planning ideology needs to be replaced to avoid operational and implementation difficulties associated with it. Since master plans have not been able change our cities, it is desirable to explore alternative planning paradigm for development of our cities. The approach needs to be inclusive, practical, operational, and development oriented in nature. Just like in many countries alternative planning ideologies to master planning approach are practiced and tried successfully, alternative viable paradigm could be experimented with supporting regional/sectoral plans, development plans, resource plans, executive plans, local plans and action plans in the State, as a presage to find a way forward for 21st century urban planning crisis. It would require modification of prevailing urban planning system, institutional framework and legislative tools to achieve consistency and sustainability. We must understand that urbanization is an inevitable phenomenon and very sensitive issues in a hilly region like ours, and it should not be left out rudderless. Planners and policy makers must consider urbanization as a central issue to policy making rather than a peripheral issue and frame a pragmatic urbanization policy aiming at revamping and rejuvenating urban development. Otherwise cities, because of their indomitable strength, will continue to grow directionless with a multitude of unsolved problems, tarnishing severely the image and economy of the cities and the State.