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Understanding the Context of Manipur 2047 Vision Document – Part I

FILE: Muck piled up near Khwairamband marketplace in the heart of Imphal Smart City

The development of a modern day Imphal City should be in tune with the concept of a River City, with a broad outline on sustainable urban river management system within the document, with Nambul and Manipur rivers in central focus as these two rivers flow through the city.

By Salam Rajesh

The Manipur 2047 State Vision Document is part policy of the Manipur Government in looking ahead through the next two decades and more as to how the State can meet targets towards progressive development and sustainability, with or without actual interpretation on ground zero of its principles and contents – as much as the Vision 2020 and the Vision 2030 documents had gone part unnoticed.

To begin the dialogue, this writer finds it actually difficult to understand why the target year is 2047 and not 2050, as similarly as the year that the United Nations had set targets to achieve on different fronts, including the Sustainable Development Goals and the Climate Change goals. It is actually difficult to understand why the time gap of three years is there – whether there is rationality in this on a scientific note or willfully done.

In the document, there is ‘vision’ of infrastructural and institutional development within the Greater Imphal City areas, whereas, environmentally speaking, there is an apparent lack of thrust on conceptualizing Imphal City as a modern day “Green City” – similarly as is being targeted in Chinese and European cities – in addressing climate issues including mitigating the “urban heat dome” phenomena which results from extensive concretization of the city area.

The concept of the Green City is not only about planting trees on the roadsides or avenues, whereas, it looks more forward in addressing means to reduce the amount of heat generated by the concretized pavements, roads and buildings. That is fundamentally why Chinese and European cities are going in for structuring new buildings that are actually ‘green’ from very aspect. The entire buildings are designed in such a way that every storey and rooftops has green spaces for flowering and ornamental plants, vegetables, and shade providing plants.

The concretized pavements and city avenues are giving way to moisture absorbing greens to help reduce the heat generated from the extensive concrete. Available open city spaces are being converted to ‘food gardens’ with fruit bearing trees to achieve targets of increasing the green cover, provide recreation for city dwellers, and importantly, provide free food for those who cannot afford to buy fruits and vegetables from expensive malls.

It should be good for the vision document to talk of re-designing Imphal City on the model of a Green City – a city that recaptures the original green fencing in every locality that was very much there, and a state policy where new buildings – in particular government buildings – must comply to designs that incorporates green spaces in the entire component of the building, from the walls, window sills, rooftops, and terraces.

The vision document lays stress on the “Imphal City Ring Road” as a measure of de-congesting the ever growing volume of traffic which is chocking the city limits. Whereas, the vision document do not have a similar suggestion for reviving the numerous ‘khongs’ or the network of waterways in the city limits that are essentially important for easy outflow of the storm water from the city area onto the river systems – like Nambul or Nambol – as a means for flood mitigation.

During the past years, it has been seen that the expansion of urban areas had resulted in the lost of several original waterways – either these been reclaimed for housings or filled in for road expansion – which essentially had been functional in draining out excessive storm water particularly during the monsoons. Many areas in the Imphal city limits are now subjected to frequent inundation, and flash floods, due to the break in the chain of waterways.

The vision document should be having a specific goal in either reviving the original network of waterways or if this is not possible, then to restructure a new system of waterways that can easily channelize the flow of storm water from the city limits onto the river system so that the city areas are no longer subject to the current state of frequent flooding and inundation due to the failure of the drainage system, and resulting from the lost of the original ‘khongs’, or ‘eram-nalas’.

The Vision Statement (2.1) in the document is specific on its target whereby the projection for the State is “To be a vibrant, carbon-neutral and economically, socially and ecologically sustainable state” … and “with the goals of maintaining social stability and ensuring well-being of current and future generations, and within the realm of environmental sustainability (2.1.4)”.

The goal is well set out, whereas, the point for reflection is on how the objective is to be achieved given the current status of absolute ecological and environmental chaos that is fairly evident in terms of the rapid decline, degradation, and consequently the reclamation, of the numerous wetlands inclusive of the khongs, community ponds, and river tributaries like the Naga Turel which feeds into the Nambul River to ultimately drain into the Loktak Lake.

That is precisely what the document is talking about ‘Sustainability’ as “inclusive development of all dimensions including social, financial, economic, cultural and environmental aspects focused on decarbonisation and net zero emission” (2.2.iii).

Net zero emission in Manipur’s context can be achieved, if at all possible, by transforming the city design from being a concrete jungle to a ‘green’ jungle in the best sense of the word, and by incorporating a policy to recover the ground lost in wetland and forest conservation. For Imphal City, the absolute re-greening of the Langol Hills is necessary as it provides watershed for the wetlands below and a green lung for the city.

The development of a modern day Imphal City should be in tune with the concept of a River City, with a broad outline on sustainable urban river management system within the document, with Nambul and Manipur rivers in central focus as these two rivers flow through the city. The ecological degradation of these two rivers directly impacts the social, economic, and ecological profile of the city’s urban and suburban areas, and reducing the use capability for the local residents.

At the current pace where the city is growing unplanned, it is perhaps next to impossible to achieve net zero emission at the local context. The Government’s planning process has to re-work on the global context of climate change mitigation and adaptation goals, with focus on nature-based solutions rather than giving thrust on engineering model of development. That, perhaps, is reflected in the recent Tupul rail yard tragedy.

(The writer is a media professional working on environmental issues. He can be reached at [email protected])

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