Meghalaya: Urban congestion -Where is Shillong heading?


SHILLONG: Growth! Meghalaya for sure has witnessed growth in many spheres. But the question remains–What kind of growth is Meghalaya experiencing? Well, the answer is blowing in the wind.

The type of growth that Meghalaya is experiencing is somewhat debatable. For sure, the gross domestic product (GDP) of the state has increased, sporting activities also witnessed a slight change when compared to the past few years, when football dominated the whole scene; eventhough, it continues to do so to some extent, but it is safe to say that other sporting activities are also coming up in the state.

However, when one talks about infrastructural growth, one can't help but wonder, "Where is Meghalaya, Shillong in particular, heading?"

Take Shillong city for example, with the kind of haphazard growth in the structural sector that we are experiencing, it seems that the once beautiful city of Shillong is slowly turning into a concrete jungle, an unplanned and dangerous growth, keeping in mind the fact that Meghalaya falls under the Seismic Zone 5.

Traffic management is becoming more of a 'joke' in Shillong, Thanks to the congested roads and the increased vehicular movement in the streets.

During an interview with the East Khasi Hills Superintendent of Police (Traffic) NK Syiem, it was disclosed that lack of space, increase in the number of vehicles every month and the tolerance shown towards hawkers is a challenge that the traffic police are facing everyday in order to resolve traffic crisis in the city.

It is true that the city is at the verge of mental collapse and insensitive and idiotic driving is adding to this problem.

"We are trying our best to resolve the traffic crisis in the city but with the roads all cramped up and hawkers dominating major parts of the footpaths in the city, it becomes difficult for our traffic personnel to tackle the issue," Syiem said.

At present, there are more than 350 traffic personnel managing traffic in the city, assisted by more than 100 homeguard personnel.

Advocating for concerted efforts on the part of the public to resolve this problem, Syiem said "What we need is cooperation from all the stakeholders—government, police and the public."

The SP (Traffic) was also of the view that Meghalaya needs a strategy to overcome this problem, "One being the construction of flyovers and over bridges in the busy places of Shillong." Referring to the success of the four-laning project from Umiam-Jerobad in tackling traffic problem along the national highway, Syiem said "Once upon a time, travelling from Shillong to Guwahati was very frustrating, but now, the word traffic snarl is but a thing of the past."

Recently, Nongthymmai MLA Jemino Mawthoh said that traffic jams and urban congestion in Shillong adds up to high blood pressure and if unchecked, in a holistic manner, will choke the city to an 'Urban Nightmare'. "Traffic snarls in Shillong have reached its peak, to the extent that people are likely to get high BP getting from point A to B," Mawthoh said jokingly.

Stating that this problem requires a 'holistic approach', Mawthoh said that there has to be a concerted and coordinated efforts of all the line departments including the Urban affairs, PWD and Home (Police) to solve this problem which has caused so much of annoyance and nuisance in Shillong.

Traffic crisis in the city affects everyone and one of the most affected groups are the taxi drivers who considers the streets as their second home as they ply these streets almost 24X7 everyday.

During an interaction, EKHLTWA general secretary Wandonbok Jyrwa said that had provided suggestions to the government in this regard and has already identified few places where parking lots could be constructed to ease the much annoying problem the city is facing now, 'Traffic Jams'.

While pinning his hope on an active High Court, Jyrwa is hopeful that the government will take this issue seriously and for once think about the plight of the taxi drivers and the commuters of Shillong. "We do hope that the court will intervene in this matter and to direct the state government to look into the matter," he said adding that a copy of the memorandum had also been forwarded to the court.

Jyrwa said that the association has identified few busy localities in Shillong which be adjusted for the construction of parking lots for both commercials and private vehicles. These places included—Motphran, Iew Mawlong, Bimola Point, Police Bazaar, Deputy Commissioner's Office, Karikhana Point, Rilbong point, Anjalee pump, Civil Hopsital point, IGP and Barik Point, H Gordon Robert Hospital, Polo point, Jhalupara Point, Umsohsum point and DI Office point in Mawkhar.

It may be reminded that earlier this year, the state government had added three more traffic branches in Shillong for better control and management of traffic in the city.

Earlier this year, in the month of February, then urban affairs minister, Ampareen Lyngdoh said that if the government is to take up a scheme that deals with de-congestion and traffic jam like the introduction of monorails and ropeways, "We have to ensure that it is going to work. There can be no false start," adding that at present the department of urban affairs is well ceased of the problem and have already conducted a number of studies. "We just have to collaborate with professional institutions," she added.

"It is very frustrating as there are a lot of snarls, hiccups and delays to be dealt with and often these factors converts into a non-action," Lyngdoh said adding that there needs to be a concerted effort from the public, the government agencies, public representatives—whether at the district council or the government and "We need to provide a solution as short a time as possible."

"Many times, we engage into political debates which derail everything. So we need to figure out a way, she said as she questioned "Will politics hamper development? Will we be able to clear ourselves of these individual wars?"

In the lines of Ampareen Lyngdoh, for new developmental projects to see the light of the day, Meghalaya needs to do away with political manoeuvring and individual political wars else projects taken up will end up being obsolete 3 years down the line.

What is left to be seen is how long can Shillong city embrace the side effects of 'growth' when in reality, the true meaning of it still hangs in balance as political manoeuvring and public denial to any new projects, still looms largely.

(By Ibankyntiew Mawrie)

Image: representational

(The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writers' own and TNT-The Northeast Today may or may not choose to hold the same views)