A plan to redevelop around 100 acres of government lands to expand roads, footpaths, build green spaces, markets, parking lots and sewage treatment plants is on the cards, Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma said yesterday.
Sangma said this during his speech at the Independence Day celebrations here yesterday.
If it goes through, the plan could lead to a significant boost to Shillong’s liveability, saving it from the negative consequences of an ever increasing population that is slowly choking the state capital.
The ability to part with 100 acres of land will necessitate progress on moving government offices to the New Shillong Township (NST).
In his speech, the CM said that the first phase of the NST will include a new Secretariat building, ‘unity shopping mall’ and sports infrastructure and that work will begin in six months.
The government is also banking on the shared school bus system to ease traffic congestion and make life easier for students and their parents.
A plan for the treatment of legacy waste at Marten landfill on Shillong’s outskirts has also been finalised, Sangma added, and the process should be completed in the next two-three years.
“All these interventions will increase the overall ease of living for the urban residents and lead to a boom in the services sector,” he said.
On the agriculture sector, Sangma said that Meghalaya has seen significant improvements in the farming of potatoes thanks to a partnership with the International Potato Centre in Peru over the last two years with the objective of making the state self-sufficient in potato seed production and benefiting 50,000 potato farmers in the state.
The state government is also finalising a comprehensive blueprint to make the state self-sufficient in meat and fish production. Currently, Meghalaya has a shortfall of 9,000 tonnes of pork, 6,000 tonnes of chicken, 16,000 tonnes of beef and 20,000 tonnes of fish, having to import this to cover the difference.
Tourism, though, will continue to be the state’s chief employment generator, the CM said.
Under the homestay scheme, 300 homestays were sanctioned in the last year and the government is aiming to sanction another 2,000 in the coming five years. The government will also build new infrastructure, like large accommodation units, experiential centres, amusement parks and viewing galleries in around 100 villages to expand tourism beyond the established clusters. Some of the approved new clusters include Kynshi in West Khasi Hills, Sohiong, Mawsynram, Shella in East Khasi Hills, Amlarem in West Jaintia Hills, Mandalgre in East Garo Hills and Siju in South Garo Hills.
A new programme of ‘Green Villas’ will be launched for entrepreneurs to take up construction of sustainable and high-value tourist accommodation, Sangma added.
On the state’s natural wealth, the state government has decided to partner with communities for the preservation of over 2 lakh hectares of forest in the next five years.
Stating that Meghalaya is blessed with 76 percent forest cover and more than 50,000 springs, Sangma said, “However, the perils of climate change threaten the delicate equilibrium of our ecosystems and could have serious impact on farming patterns and on the lives of agrarian communities.”
To mitigate these risks, he said the government has initiated several afforestation programs and the country’s largest Payment for Ecosystem Services programme, called Green Meghalaya.