Former Director of Town Planning and Housing Department, Government of Meghalaya, Abul Kalam Maqbul Karim has said that availability of land is a must for decongestion of Shillong city.
“This is where it starts; you must have land for widening the road, for parking lots, etc and land is a very important aspect of all development activities,” Karim told Highland Post today.
Karim joined service in the Meghalaya government on February 22, 1972 and started recruiting staff and opening of district offices first in Jowai and Tura and in 1976 the district office was opened in Shillong. It was during his time that the master plan of Shillong was worked out as per the Assam Town and Planning Act that was adopted in Meghalaya in 1973.
Karim who is instrumental for urban planning in Shillong during the 1970s said, “If you have land you widen the roads, create parking lots. I remember I face a lot of difficulties in road widening in Malki because people won’t give their land even on payment and they say they cannot part with their land, and whatever improvement remains to be done is being done by the PWD.”
He said adding that decentralisation is another very important aspect of urban planning.
Speaking on the building by-laws, Karim said that the concept is very clear to the town planners but the most important aspect is public participation.
“The people have to be conscious. The building by-laws which come as part of the Town Planning Act have rules like leaving minimum spaces in front of a house, minimum of six feet on both sides of the house and nine feet space from the backside of the house, etc but there are people who encroach these spaces,” he lamented.
Karim said execution is very important and keeping a watch on these violations is not an easy task and the public should cooperate.
“If there is a violation of local by-laws the neighbors should not remain quiet but complain about it to authorities. In Meghalaya, we have the local Dorbar Shnong that has a great responsibility in handling these situations and helping the government to control the violation of laws,” he added.
When asked about the KHADC building by-laws which are under process, Karim said that any law is as good as it is enforced and implemented.
“If there is no enforcement then a law becomes meaningless,” he said.
On the problem of street vendors and roadside encroachment, he said that the only solution is providing a designated place for street vendors in the city.
“They cannot just encroach into the footpath and disturb the public and vehicular movements. If a street vendor or a roadside shops encroach and occupies a footpath the pedestrians will be compelled to walk on road and this in turn will disturb the traffic flow. This should not be allowed and strict enforcement should be in place,” Karim said.