Thursday, September 3, 2009

Transforming Kohima

Transforming Kohima


The Government of India has recently signed the Asian Development Bank loan agreements relating to the North Eastern Region Capital Cities Development Investment Program (NERCCDIP). Under the agreement, ADB will extend $200 million for capital cities of the north east for their development programmes. The first tranche of this project amounts to $30 million. This will be disbursed with the objective to improve quality of life for 1.2 million people and enhance urban productivity in the five capital cities namely Agartala (Tripura), Aizwal (Mizoram), Shillong (Meghalaya), Kohima (Nagaland) and Gangtok (Sikkim). The urban development ministry, through the respective state governments, would be the executing agencies. This is indeed good news for people of Nagaland as its capital Kohima has all the potential to become a world class heritage city for which much work needs to be done. Funds being the constraint, the ADB loan if utilized properly provide a golden opportunity to make Kohima the pride of all the Nagas.
Given that the ADB program will be one of the largest externally-funded infrastructure investments ever seen in the region, the Nagaland State government must ensure outmost transparency and accountability because this is an international project and the prestige and image of the Naga people is at stake. We should demonstrate sincerity, efficiency and cooperation during the period of the program. Nagaland in particular has suffered from a dearth of investment because of its “remote, mountainous location, long distance from markets, high levels of poverty and unemployment and limited private sector interest”, as stated by the ADB in its statement. Hopefully the new investment opportunity will not go for a miss and be properly utilized towards its stated objective. It is of outmost importance to properly plan and develop our urban centers like Dimapur and Kohima. For instance, the urban growth rate of Nagaland is quite alarming which can be gauged from the number of vehicles squeezed on roads build almost a quarter of a century ago.
The main problem we are facing today is that infrastructure has not grown proportionally with the ever increasing population growth so much so that the growing size of our towns beyond their holding capacities is witnessed by the present day overcrowding, lack of adequate housing, encroachment, mushrooming of slums and settlements, lack of civic amenities and not to mention the road congestion and resultant traffic jams and pollution.
Considering the deficit in terms of infrastructure growth, the growing urban population of Nagaland accounting for about 17.74% of the total population of the State, indeed reflects the enormity of challenges that lies ahead. The concerned people in the government as well as the public at large should realize the magnitude of this crisis and do whatever is necessary. Likewise, the municipal bodies in the respective towns will have to play an important leadership role. For the immediate though, the opportunity provided by the ADB loan should be used to create the appropriate infrastructure. And as stated by the ADB besides the physical improvements, strict mechanism must be put in place to ensure good governance, finance and service delivery reforms and a capacity-building programme to support the implementation of NERCCDIP and the urban reform agenda. People of Nagaland particularly Kohima, don’t miss this golden opportunity.

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