Monday, July 22, 2024

Unplanned Smart City


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Shillong is supposed to be a smart city but the smart infrastructure is woefully missing. One of the first things visible in a planned city are recreation spaces. In Shillong the only recreation space for children is Lady Hydari Park. The Wards Lake has no space for kids to scamper around and tire themselves out. Kids and young adolescents should be physically active to expend their energies instead of being glued to their smart phones which is the case today and this has serious consequences. In most cities every locality has a public garden and recreation park where even the elderly can meet with their peers as they take their grandkids out to play. The elderly cannot be cooped up in their homes the whole day. They need to meet and interact with others on a range of issues. It helps them to trigger their thought processes and perhaps keep Alzheimer’s at bay.

Lady Hydari Park and Wards Lake are both legacies of the British. We may disagree with the British on many counts but in terms of foresight and imagination they are a class apart. The Raj Bhavan with its lush lawns is another good example of a plush government house whose space is largely unused because the occupants of Raj Bhavan have for a long time lived there without their extended families. Considering that Shillong is expanding at an incredible pace a part of the Raj Bhavan could have been carved out as a recreation space. It will do no one any harm if that space is cordoned off from the Government House.

Come to the New Shillong Township. That place too does not seem to have been planned to include a  childrens’ park. It is already being heavily constructed although there is still some space along the area where the Shillong International Centre for the Performing Arts and Culture (SICPAC) is located. Humans are not automatons. They need a breathing space and to see beauty around them. The youth in particular need recreation space; but where is that space? True some localities have sports grounds where the youth can play football, basketball or cricket but they also need space where they can just sit and have conversations. Such spaces are too few and far between. Hence the youth end up drinking or doing drugs inside vehicles parked in dark corners where they feel safe and where their anonymity is assured. Meghalaya now abounds with drug users and there are reasons for that. Most houses are cramped and don’t provide the space for young people to meet and converse with their friends. Neither are their public spaces for their recreation. How can we expect a sense of well-being in such cramped spaces? Government needs to think beyond creating hard infrastructure. Is that not what the Planning Board is all about?

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