Editorial – Imphal in Mud and Dust

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A few days of rain and the streets of Imphal acquire a layer of mud, making them hazardous for two wheeled vehicles as well as messy for pedestrians. Many of the city’s lanes would be in far worse conditions, some literally in ankle deep mud. This is exactly the picture now, after the last two or three days of unseasonal rains, Imphal is in a big slush. But a week or so from now, as the rains recede and the summer sun takes over, the mud on the road would bake dry and soon transform into dust clouds everywhere, again causing health hazards to all, but especially those who live along the roads. The sadder part of the story is, everybody will take a fatalistic approach and think things were meant to be this way. Few will ever think this problem is addressable, or that it is the responsibility of the government to rectify things to contain the problem. They also will not see it as the duty of the people by and large to cooperate with the government in making the project a success. More likely, nobody would even spare the time to give a thought to this problem, much less how it can be got around.
Time to change attitude, and as usual the government must take the initiative. The mud comes on the tarmac road surface because the arterial approach roads to it are not stone paved and hence muddy. Not only this, the pedestrian walks alongside the roads are also not hard-topped thereby they too are muddy in the rainy seasons. Tackling these would do plenty towards solving the problem of mud and dust in Imphal and other major towns of the state. This is also not exactly out of reach of the government or the people. For instance, the government could issue a whip that a substantial percentage of the local area development funds of the MLAs would have to be earmarked for the project, on the promise of a matching amount to be also invested in the project by the government. This could then be made a perpetually continuing programme. To ensure the accountability as well as involvement of the general public, the government could think of making local youth clubs and organisations partners. These traditional youth bodies, of which each locality has one, could then be given the responsibility of execution these projects in their respective localities. These could include developing roadside flower beds and planters, paving the lanes etc. Some enterprising local clubs are doing this at their own initiative already so that what the government needs to do now is simply to give their efforts a nudge and supply them with the material needed. This is not exactly a blueprint for what should be done, but only an indicator of what can be done. The government can and should develop on the flagged idea and come up with a comprehensive plan to combat and put an end to this extremely ugly problem besetting residents of Imphal as well as exposing them to health hazards.
Let this matter not be taken as trivial. It is health and beauty related and thereby very important. Its benefits would also be indirect in many instances. A clean and neat city would for instance also be a big booster for the tourism industry. After all, which tourist would like to come to a place and return with chest congestion from dust, or slush in the mud when it is raining. But much as we wish, even if such a programme were to be agreed upon in spirit, as in most public projects taken up by the government, between the idea and its execution would be where the shadow falls. This has happened so many times before. Take just the case of the ban on plastic bags. Until such a time it was in vogue amongst the public, in particular the chattering classes, the government pushed the issue strongly. But as the chattering classes lost steam, as it was destined to, the government in reciprocation receded and now the issue is back to where it began, and plastic still continue to coagulate and suffocate Imphal. At least on issues like this which have a strong implication on public health and indeed the health of the ecology of the place, it would have been very much in place for the government to have shown more commitment. But all is not lost yet. The government can begin all over again, and together with tackling plastic, let it also do something about the mud and dust choking Imphal and other townships and villages along the highways of the state.

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