Editorial – Clean Imphal Please

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The drive to clean up Imphal after the initial fanfare has receded into the background once again. But even the little extra consciousness of the need for keeping the city clean seems to have left its mark. Thangal Bazar for instance looks a lot more orderly today. For long, this stretch of one of the oldest and busiest commercial streets of Imphal city was almost buried in its own waste. Moreover, the prolonged isolation caused by the construction of the BT Flyover and then the three modern Keithel complexes, had left it almost dead as a commercial centre, as it was increasingly becoming difficult for customers to enter the area. Now that these constructions are finally drawing to a completion and the virtual marooning of the Thangal Bazar finally over, the market is slowly but surely regaining its old vitality. Quite noticeable, for the moment at least, is a new effort to keep the place clean by all those who are doing business here. The place in short is now wearing a somewhat swept look and this is welcome. Whether this is only a salvo to cheer the end of the long isolation and business strangulation it was condemned to and that things would be back to its messy past sooner than later, or else there has been a dawn of a new found collective desire to live and trade in clean environment, remains to be seen.
Imphal would have been such a beautiful mid-sized city if it was clean and not as dusty as it is now. Its climate is amazingly temperate, with mild summers and not too bitter winters. It does not have too much noise pollution or for that matter motorcar fumes as in almost all other cities of the country. What it does have in abundance is dusts. In the dry season especially, it is next to impossible to be travelling on its roads in anything but a sealed, air-conditioned car. As not everybody can afford this luxury, it is imaginable how much this condition is responsible for respiratory tract ailments amongst numerous Imphal residents. It is not surprising that face masks and other air filter devices to breathe with have become such a hit in the city. Practically every two wheeler rider and pedestrian today wears such a device. Perhaps schools should also make it part of their school uniform for the safety of the children in their schools. Why is the government not thinking of combating this menace on a war footing? It once began with a campaign to make Imphal a plastic-free city, but abandoned it sooner than it started it. Why this lack of will power? Gangtok, the capital of the latest state to join the Northeast, Sikkim, managed it so well and today this small but exquisitely clean hill station can boast of being totally plastic bag free. It is also one of those Indian cities where outdoor, open restaurants are possible, because it is also virtually dust free.
Some MLAs, including the Yaiskul legislator, have begun using their local area funds to black-top all dirt lanes in their constituencies, and this is a good beginning, for most of the dust on the tarmac roads are brought on it from the muddy approach lanes to them. This is, we must say, one way of spending this public fund in the hands of MLAs and MPs meaningfully. Most of the time, it is not really known how this money is spent, and as it emerged during the last Assembly election, a lot of it ended up spent only on paper with little or nothing to show on the ground. The government should also hasten up its construction works in Imphal city. For whatever its reason, it has not taken up these works in batches, but virtually all in one go making Imphal all the more dusty, and not only this, inconveniencing commuters on these roads. It must realise, keeping Imphal clean is not just about beautification but more importantly of public health as well. For all these reasons, we are of the opinion the government must take up this issue on a priority basis. It must resolve that in the next one year, Imphal would be a dust free city. This would be a boon for all the residents of Imphal apart from making it much more attractive for tourists. Come to think of it, unlike say the question of bringing the insurgency situation under control, or boosting the economy of the state, this one is imminently achievable. For all we know, perhaps this is the trigger to start the chain reaction of problem solutions in the state, after all, what is needed for creativity to result is an all-round conducive atmosphere, and this cannot happen under the endless clouds of dust that Imphal today is shrouded in.

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