“Imphal Smart City proposal leaves more questions than answers’’


IMPHAL, April 10: Civil society organisations and concerned individuals based in the capital examined a consultation document for the “Imphal Smart City Proposal” and raised serious concerns regarding the vision and thrust of the plans afoot.

According to a joint statement issued by several frontal organizations and individuals, the consultation document reviewed strengths and weaknesses of Imphal and also identified opportunities and threats (SWOT) in the context of its conversion into a smart city.

It identified a limited core city area for a special Area Development Plan along with a so-called “pan city mobility proposal”.

Imphal was identified in 2015 to be developed as a “smart city” under the national Smart Cities Mission scheme introduced by the Government of India. The State government has already engaged an external consultancy firm, Arki Techno Consultants Pvt. Ltd., which is associated with IRS Systems South Asia Pvt. Ltd., in a furtive manner that is neither participatory nor consultative.

The private consultants are to prepare a “Smart City Proposal” for Imphal, and a proposal document under development has been encapsulated into a short presentation for the purpose of wider consultations and feedback from various identified stakeholders. Civil society including NGOs constitutes a major stakeholder in this scheme of development, the statement said.

It claimed that the Smart Cities Mission Statement and Guidelines are flawed because the core “infrastructure elements” is a menu that muddies structural infrastructural development with aspirational, social and organic goals such as governance, citizens’ participation, sustainable environment, and safety and security of citizens.

The concept of an “area based development” strategy may seem to be rational at a cursory examination; but this is also deeply embedded with a truncated view of what Imphal City is today and what a future ‘smart’ Imphal could look like, it stated.

The statement said the area based development aims at developing a well-connected and accessible area with defined hierarchy of streets and public spaces, model of environment friendly development that can be replicated in other parts of the city, model for achieving sustainable balance between built and natural environment since there is a river, a heritage precinct and parcels of urban built form and tourist destination with supported infrastructure to enhance social and economic well-being.

Pointing out that the core area of the area based development plan has been arbitrarily identified without wide consultations with every local stakeholder, it said the core area also neither envisions nor includes the two major rivers, the Imphal and Nambul Rivers, and their important tributaries that flow through Imphal city within its environmental frame.

Overall, the city proposal lacks historical, political and socio-economic understanding of how Imphal has evolved, or is evolving, and thus lacks a vision that can help transform it into a modern city which is livable, clean and safe, it said.

Urging the government to not rush this current initiative, the statement said proposed plans should be transparently invited in a competition so that the best one may be chosen openly by the people of the State.

The people have the right to more time for further thinking, research and wider consultations to build a future together, it added.


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