Are the Imphal streets safe?
IFP Editorial:Time to drive home the message that we should go easy on motorised vehicles moving on diesel or petrol and move on to environment friendly vehicles while also actively encouraging walking and cycling in the streets. For this, we have to take into consideration the safety of pedestrians and cyclists while mapping roads
The ‘Cycling and Walking Event’ organised by Imphal Smart City Limited (ISCL) on Saturday with support from the Manipur Adventure and Mountain Biking Association as part of the Streets for People (S4P) Challenge to crowdsource innovative ideas and attract citizen participation in re-imagining streets as safe, healthy, and happy public spaces for all is indeed a smart move. At the launch, director of MAHUD and ex-officio CEO of ISCL Th Harikumar Singh emphasised the need to promote walking and cycling as environmentally friendly modes of transport during the pandemic through dedicated cycle lanes and walking streets. The S4P Challenge is an initiative of the Smart Cities Mission, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA), Government of India in partnership with the ITDP India Programme and supported by the Fit India Movement and Swachh Bharat Mission. The aim of the challenge is to create walking-friendly streets and public spaces across Indian cities and ensure a green recovery from COVID-19.
Imphal is one among the 113 cities to have registered for the challenge. The design competition is open to all professionals and students from architecture, urban planning and other relevant fields.
As part of the challenge, Imphal has selected two sites for the design competition - Governor Road near BT Park and Johnstone Higher Secondary School and Turel Mapal (New Lambulane) Road-Khongnang Makhong Road in New Checkon. The challenge would indeed ignite innovative ideas from among young professionals and minds. But, what we are mainly concerned is the spirit behind the challenge, that of encouraging pedestrianism and cycling in our cities. City managers rarely follow it through, besides the random events of such targeted campaigns or challenges.
We had flagged the issue of pedestrian-only streets in the core area of Imphal city at this space on different occasions in the past. It is to be a beginning of a long-drawn campaign to make the streets of Imphal city safe and environment friendly. The dangerous side of the pandemic Covid 19 notwithstanding, we can certainly feel a positive change in the polluted environment of the city as vehicular traffic slowed down this year due to lockdown and other forms of restrictions. Indeed, it is a welcome change. The easing of pollution could be seen everywhere in the world, as the smog cleared over the congested cities. So, now is the time to drive home the message that we should go easy on motorised vehicles moving on diesel or petrol and move on to environment friendly vehicles while also actively encouraging walking and cycling in the streets. For this, we have to take into consideration the safety of pedestrians and cyclists while mapping roads. For those charged with road construction in the city limits and rural areas, safety of pedestrians and cyclists have never been a norm. The footpaths at the edge of the roads are always at the mercy of the shopkeepers who encroach upon it to hawk and display their wares, while the portion adjoining the footpaths are used as parking spaces by residents or shopkeepers.
Now, under the Smart City Mission, construction of Mall Road on a small stretch of Thangal Bazar from entry point up to Kasturi building is going on with concrete pavement. This indeed a good initiative. However, we would like to point out the nominal investment directed at improvement of the city infrastructure under the Smart City Mission. Out of the Rs 100 crore investment, majority of it seems to have been invested in e-management which usually should follow the development of physical infrastructure, first. For example, the mall road in the core Bazar area and the cycling track planned on the banks of Imphal River at the boundary of the historic Kangla for only a small stretch is insulting to the central investment for the Smart City Mission. The Chief Minister and MAHUD minister needs to take into account this fact.