50 Years of Statehood : Staring at Daunting Problems – Why ?

By C F Lyngdoh

Meghalaya will very soon celebrate its Golden Jubilee but is there any cause for celebration and cheering up on the big day? Sad to say that mammoth problems are facing Meghalayans on every front. But all of the critical problems, two glaring ones being faced daily by the people are:-
The traffic snarls of Shillong city
The mounting garbage dumps and the pollution of surface water bodies.
1. Snarling traffic jam:
This problem is becoming more and more acute year after year. The obvious reason is known to all. Vehicle population is growing exponentially while the roads have remained static because further widening is impossible. However, even a casual study indicates that the main cause of traffic jam is caused due to the bottlenecks starting at Mawlai (near Petrol Pump), at junction near KHADC, junction near Anjalee Cinema, Malki point, Dhanketi junction, etc. The problem at the junctions is that vehicle routes criss-cross (e.g., Barik – Laitumkhrah route criss-cross with Lachumiere – Fire-brigade route and so on), so that the flow of vehicles in one route has to be stopped for a few minutes to allow vehicles on the other route to move on. But even 4 or 5 minutes of stoppage in one route causes a long line of stranded vehicles on the other route.
No doubt, successive state governments might have considered the problem but usually they get the stock answer – there is no space available on the present routes to construct fly-overs and the matter ends there. However, if there is no space to accommodate fly-overs, there is an alternate solution i.e. to construct Overhead Crossings (O.C) of short length at the bottleneck points. For instance, vehicles on the Lachumiere – Fire-brigade route and the Barik-Laitumkhrah route can simultaneously criss-cross above and below the O.C which reduces traffic jam. The overhead crossing may start from the hump of the Lachumiere road near Loreto Convent, extend over the traffic point and ending near the entry to St. Peter’s School – a short O.C of about 300 m length similar to what Sikkim built in Gangtok. Similar projects may be taken up gradually at the other bottleneck locations. One limitation for using the overhead crossing is that only light/medium motor vehicles can be allowed on the O.C; the width of the overhead crossing about 5 m in two lanes should be sufficient for two vehicles to pass each other from opposite directions. The road designers can prepare suitable designs when pressed to action. During the time of Assam Government, just after independence there was a PWD minister named Rev. J.J.M Nichols Roy, a man of vision. He saw the serious necessity to have an all-season road from Sohra – Mawmluh to Shella via Mawmluh village. The Assam PWD then told the minster that is it impossible to make the road in such steep terrain. The minister Rev. Nichols Roy did not accept such reply and simply told them that he had seen and travelled on the roads built in more difficult terrain when he was staying in USA for a few years. Reluctantly, the PWD engineers carried out a survey and did some formation cutting but as soon as Rev. Nichols Roy was shifted from PWD, the work was abandoned. Fortunately, after attaining statehood, Meghalaya government revived the project and the rest is history. Nowadays the Mawmluh – Shella road is always a preferred route for all small and medium vehicles though passenger buses also use it whenever needed. To his credit, Rev Nichols Roy never lost the general elections from the Shillong constituency, always holding cabinet rank in the Assam Government. During the last phase of his political career however he was much opposed and reviled by his opponents because of his Congress membership. In one of his election campaigns he frankly told the heckling group among the crowd “Even if you do not vote for me I will win the election because the Angels will cast their vote for me” Yes he won. He later became one of the Architects of the Constitution and the author of the Sixth Schedule. Present day politicians do not have the moral strength of Rev. Nichols Roy but unlike him they can confidently say ‘Whether you like me or not I will win the next elections because I have collected crores and crores of money to buy any number of votes that I need to win’.
2. Garbage handling in Shillong, etc:
The gateway to Shillong city whether you arrive from Guwahati city or Umroi Airport does not have the beautiful ‘WELCOME’ arch structure with clean surroundings to greet you but tonnes and tonnes of garbage so close to the highway emitting a repulsive stench accompanied by toxic smoke rising from the burning garbage which includes huge amount of discarded plastic material. This is the first impression of Shillong city to the visitors and tourists. The place is called Marten and is being used as a garbage dump-yard or landfill for about a century or so. The stench from the said landfill/garbage dump spreads around even as far as the Mawlai Petrol Pump. In these days of advanced Scientific Technology, big cities and metro cities in India and abroad have successfully tackled the problem so efficiently by using modern garbage handling plants to treat bio-degradable, plastic and electronic waste materials separately, even deriving saleable manure, etc for respective purposes.
By these processes, garbage dumps are being eliminated (even profitably) daily. But Meghalaya state continues the use of Marten for landfill. The authorities have even scouted for suitable and potential landfill area. But with the spread of information on the unhealthy atmosphere of Marten, village after village have refused to sell their land for landfill. It is high time that Meghalaya tackles the problem of garbage handling scientifically without further delay. If Kolkata or Bangalore or other cities can solve the problem of garbage handling efficiently, why not Shillong? What’s happening in Marten is slowly building up in Tura and Jowai. Protests have taken place recently in Jowai over the subject of garbage dumping.
The failure of the state government to take up the issues noted, speaks volumes on the capability of the Government to administer the state, not to speak of misadventure in handling and transportation of coal and huge leakage of revenue from royalty and dues payable by the cement companies located in the state. Meghalaya’s handling of the social garbage is still being done in a primitive way even after 50 years of existence; what a shame for each of us when it comes to the topic of garbage handling. What is happening in Shillong is now slowly taking place in other towns of Meghalaya also. But the authorities are turning a blind eye. It is time the powers that be wake up to the realities of the situation. So much for garbage. What about liquid effluents from the city, which include effluent from septic tanks, kitchens, bathrooms, etc which drain out ultimately to the stream/rivers – Wahumkhrah, Wah Umshyrpi and then to the Umiam Lake. The above mentioned Wah Umkhrah and Wah Umshyrpi which flow on the periphery of Shillong city used to be the important sites where people wash their clothes and children enjoy swimming, even angling for small fishes; these streams are the sites where dhobis (washermen) of Shillong earn their livelihood by washing clothes near Polo ground, Nongmynsong, Cantonment area, etc. The water in the streams 50 years ago was crystal clear and suitable for washing clothes but now we do not like to touch the stream water even with our feet.
In Gangtok the capital of Sikkim all the liquid effluent from the inhabited areas are diverted by small pipes to the main pipe of about 50 cm dia which carries away the effluent over a distance of more than 10 km to the Effluent Treatment plant where the polluted water is purified and in the process some manure like urea is produced. After treatment, clear water is obtained; it is then recycled for use in the factories or used in agricultural farms; the excess water is released to the Teesta river which always retains its clarity throughout its course. To see the waters of Wah Umkhrah, Wah Umshyrpi and Umjasai in their pristine clarity is now a wishful dream which may never come true as serious attempts have never been made to emulate the wonderful example of Sikkim, which attained statehood not even 40 years ago.
50 years ago, our founding fathers scripted their vision. ‘To make Meghalaya a shining outpost of progress in the corner of North-east India’. Sad to note, that vision is shattered before our own eyes. Still it is not too late for the state government to address above urgent issues. It takes strong determination, steadfast devotion to realise the goals and scientific planning and implementation of the projects by entrusting the projects to well qualified agencies which are reputed and have sufficient expertise and experience in executing the projects on a time bound schedule.
Wake up Meghalaya. Shake off the lethargy that has gripped us. Get going and doing, seriously and honestly. May God Help Us.

Get real time updates directly on your device, subscribe now.

Comments are closed.