Guwahati's planning needs revisiting
By Arun Chandra Deka
The Assam government needs to decisively and without further delay, recast and revisit the elements of urban planning of Guwahati with some innovative additions, not only to save the city from the brink of deadlock but also to regain the lost confidence in government machinery. Overburdened with huge population pressure, Guwahati is heading towards a standstill due to traffic disorder, rather than harmful effects of essential economic activities. We are seriously lagging behind in providing alterte routes for streamlining the growing volume of traffic, which is the first problem. The second major problem, as exhibited even after a short shower of rains, is the woeful draige which is posing a direct threat to most city dwellers. The following elements, inter alia, need immediate attention for revival of Guwahati as follows: a) Alterte long & short routes, b) Widening of existing routes as per Master Plan, c) Removal of roadside encroachments, d) Reclaiming water bodies, e) Activation of groundwater recharge, f) Underground draige grid, g) Augmentation of public spaces & playgrounds, h) EWG housing, i) Augmentation of market complexes and j) Automatic traffic sigling.
The most important efforts would be construction of two road bridges over Brahmaputra at Kacharighat and Bonda points to widen and realign congested Guwahati. It is also equally vital to resume effective ferry services at existing as well as some new locations, connecting entire north Guwahati to the main city. Considering the scope of widening and to enhance eco-friendly or eco-tourism factors, the existing route from Kharghuli via Choonsali to Chandrapur should be widened and continued for direct passage of east-west bound traffic, including to tourist attractions. This apart, it would be a permanent and attractive levee which can protect the city from all probable flooding by the Brahmaputra. Another important parallel altertive of GNB & MRD roads is possible from Chenikuthi via Nizarapar to Jyotigar-east linking Refinery road. All other interl roads should immediately be widened as being provided in building permissions for required widening.
Secondly, the chaos of traffic jams and frequent accidents are being aggravated by roadside encroachments. It is the dangerous trend of a city growing rapidly in unplanned manner, cumulatively posing threats of all kinds. Not dealing with it seriously now will merely prolong the issue. It encourages agglomeration of all sorts of undesirable people leading to spurts in illegal activities like thefts & burglaries. Thirdly, lack of stringent action in reclaiming water bodies will permanently reduce ability to deal with flash floods. A serious crisis that despite perennial floods in Guwahati every rainy season, its population is facing ground water withdrawal. The recharge of ground water table is being hampered dangerously by surface impermeability. The percolation of rainwater is being prevented totally in individual plots as well as all tributary drains with the construction of impervious beds. As such, to augment ground water storage, all drains should be kutcha beds and percolation pits in individual plots be made mandatory as provided in building byelaws, as well as making road berms with pavement blocks to encourage regular seepages. Further, for long-term goal, we should rethink about the underground draige grid for sullage & sewerage disposal, not only to prevent water-logging but to halt contamition of ground water.
As pointed out above, we need to provide good numbers of playgrounds and public places to eble people to maintain mental and physical health practices. Due to declining avenues of free air and open places, the quality of societal life is deteriorating, leading to alietion and drugs and alcohol abuse. Is this not a matter of serious concern? Recreation amenities are the integral part & parcel of a planned city. Further, to get rid of illegal occupation of vulnerable hills, reserved forests, public lands, water bodies and low-lying areas in Guwahati, we should immediately resort to innovative efforts of Economically Weaker Group (EWG) housing for deserved categories. Reclaiming appropriate lands, it should be launched for those people who can contribute themselves and under loan grants, and also those who are uble to leave the city on account of jobs or occupations but having no place to settle. It will streamline all haphazard growth of shanty towns and accumulation of undesirable people. On account of free occupation of government land and uccountable trading, many people are being forced into urban migration, leaving jobs and farming in tive areas. It is a serious loss to the local economy. Small planned businesses may be encouraged by constructing public markets, one each at every square kilometer of Guwahati, banning all illegal street vending except wheeled trays in residential locations.
Filly, the traffic jam in almost all roads is a serious headache for not only Guwahati dwellers, but a huge obstacle to all inputs coming from outside. Nobody is able to maintain timeliness in work, which is enough to undermine all economic activities and occupations. Traffic jams are the summation of all misdeeds violating the rules of the road. The constant increase in number of private vehicles is the result of mismagement of public transport. Loss of timeliness is the precursor of traffic mismagement. The traffic authority lacks flow diagram or schedules of arrivals & departures. The system is left to the hands of drivers & handymen. Further, junctions are being controlled with little interest by traffic personnel, mostly by home-guards. Most automatic sigls are not working because of failure to operate rather than breakdowns. The failure in operating the sigls is due to the poor understanding of user’s norms by traffic personnel rather than by commuters. The direct cause of failure of automatic system is due to intrusion to prohibited area between opposite zebra lines. Therefore, appropriate measures should be adopted to revive the automatic sigls with proper display of user’s norms and extended to all other junctions. This is the proven methods of controlling growing traffic volumes in a city like Guwahati. (Ph. 9435199550.)