Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Shillong’s “Times Square”


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Your front page news item of September  14, 2014,  “Shillong to Have its Own Times Square” is a  bold initiative of Chief Minister Dr. Mukul  Sangma. We shall await its completion within the stipulated time-frame.  But what caught my attention was the mention of Wah Umkhrah River which passes through the Polo Ground areas. Great that the Meghalaya government has woken up to one of the many perennial problems of encroachments and that ways and means would be found to relocate the encroachers. Glad that the Government of Meghalaya is no more confused or to remain under developed because of lop-sided plans and programmes what with the Modi government’s recent decision to develop 100 “smart cities” in 10 years time.
There is little sanity in taking decisions to remove unauthorised slum- dwellers or encroachers and then to rescind the decisions under certain political pressure. Nor is it adequate to take panicky decisions to form panels of ministers and secretaries to visualize plans for the future. They are of no consequences if considerable representation of enlightened citizens’ groups and NGOs and advisors drawn from the fields of earth sciences and engineering are not included. They should form the majority in the panel. However, to relocate the encroachers is not a cake-walk though.
Lets us plan methodically, adequately and scientifically through long-range urban planning. It must also be taken into consideration that developers interests does not override  public interest; that the rights of the poor or slum-dwellers or of those unauthorized construction of dwellings in and around Wah UmKhrah  are also upheld as displacement from one location will force them to relocate to another risk prone location.
Can we hope that the many environment conscious people will join hands to analyse the problems that Wah Umkhrah and other water-bodies are facing?
Incidentally I was informed by Mr Brain Kharpran Daly, the pioneer of Meghalaya Adventurers’ Association, that during the British times all along the Wah Umkhrah river the Azelea flower grew in  abundance and hence the area there was also known as the “Azelea Walk”. Can that be restored?
Yours etc
Syed Nazimur Rahman
Shillong -4

Well spoken Mr CM!

Time stood still for a moment this morning while reading in your paper (ST Sep 11, 2014)  about Times Square coming to Shillong. It is a laudable vision and even if a fraction of the Hudson River front can be created here it will be a path breaking achievement. And it is possible with the present CM being involved, as he appears to be sincerely environment friendly and “go getter” compared to others. Wah Umkhrah is not only the stretch at Polo but reclamation has to begin at source before any tangible action can be initiated. However, the point of contention is that major portion of land occupied or encroached on the Umkhrah river bank at Polo now belongs to the  affluent, to different politicians or their family members measuring several hectares each. Attempts to remove the “high profile encroachers” may even rock the boat of the present government which envisages “rowing” down the Umkhrah.  While we have culverts, bridges, dams and barrages built over Umkhrah from bank to bank, one can see hundreds of acres of park and greenery like the Hudson and Clinton Park with adequate setback on the banks of the Hudson River. In fact Times Square is over 2.5 kms from Hudson River bank. A holistic approach for both Umkhrah and Umshyrpi is the need of the hour and my petition with NGT approaches the issue in its entirety. It has been an inspiration to me that all NGO’s, traditional bodies and concerned individuals, particularly those involved in “Save Umkhrah, Umshyrpi” campaign in the task force have come forward to implead in the petition. I am truly inspired by the overwhelming support to save our river systems and water bodies.
Yours etc,
Naba Bhattacharjee
Shillong – 4.


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