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Strategies needed for future growth of Guwahati

By BARUN BARPUJARI
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GUWAHATI, the gateway to the northeastern states, has been growing at a considerable pace and is predicted to grow even faster in the future. Unfortunately, not a great deal of planning has gone behind Guwahati�s growth process and consequently, it has been haphazard, leading to inconvenience and poor quality of life for its residents and those who come over to conduct business, etc. Roads are narrow and getting increasingly congested with growing private vehicles. The public transport system, comprising mainly rashly-driven private buses, is almost nonexistent. The drainage system is poor and grossly inadequate to manage the large volume of rainwater/sewerage during the long monsoon season. This leads to flooding of large parts of the city. As an impact of climate change, we are likely to see more frequent bursts of heavy rainfall in the future with resultant flooding. Other public utilities and services, like supply of clean drinking water and disposal/management of garbage, etc., need considerable expansion and improvement. The situation would become progressively worse unless thoughtful, adequate and timely action is planned and executed in the right earnest.

There needs to be a short-term and a mid/long-term strategy to plan and sustain the growth of Guwahati city. Short-term actions could include, inter alia:

� Ban on roadside parking along the busy main roads of Guwahati city by creating parking areas at appropriate locations for cars, autos, rickshaws, scooters/motorcycles. The open drains along certain roads may be covered and parking areas/footpaths created on them, thereby creating more space for traffic movement;

� Modern buses may be put into service at frequent intervals in order to encourage people to shift from using private vehicles to mass transport system (buses for the time being). Moreover, the private buses must be disciplined and compelled to follow all rules;

� A more determined effort with very close monitoring of time targets must be made to put in place infrastructure for delivery of safe drinking water across the city;

� Roll out a more comprehensive strategy of segregation of dry and wet wastes with people�s participation, collection and finally processing/disposal of wastes;

� Masterplans to be drawn to properly develop new areas with adequately wide roads, drainage facility, etc., and with provision for future growth;

The short-term measures indicated above in respect of traffic management are expected to accommodate the growing vehicle population for about five/six years or so.

The mid-term and long-term plans could include work on the proposed Metro Rail system, which should be started in the right earnest and should progress on a mission mode, while elevated roads also need to be put in place urgently in certain areas.

Satellite towns

Smart satellite towns should be created in the suburbs of Guwahati providing good and rapid communication facilities between these towns and Guwahati city.

The facilities in these satellite towns should include, inter alia:

� Planned housing areas with markets for each locality and wide roads having provision for future growth;

� Roads should have separate walking and cycling tracks to encourage healthy lifestyle activities;

� Piped water supply system;

� Gas distribution network to supply piped natural gas;

� Underground electrical/communication cable networks and Wi-Fi facility;

� Properly planned drainage system and solid and liquid waste management and processing facilities;

� Planned market places (shops along the roads should not be permitted) and offices that would require minimum travelling by residents; there should also be adequate provision for parking;

� Good medical, educational, recreational and sports facilities;

� High-quality digital network facilities and with good digital connectivity with Guwahati city. This could, in fact, facilitate creation of sub-centres of public utility offices in the satellite towns in order to obviate the need to travel to Guwahati city;

� Public utility and commercial buildings that come under the ambit of the Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC) must be built in conformity with this code in order to enhance energy efficiency and reduce carbon emission. These buildings must also have rain-harvesting facilities incorporated and rooftop grid connected solar power generating facilities with net metering in place;

These towns should be located along the suburban rail network, considering various related issues. Some suggested locations are as follows:

� South of NH-37, between Sonapur and Khetri � to the East of Guwahati;

� South of NH-37, between Boko and Chaygaon � to the west of Guwahati; and

� In North Guwahati, between NH-52 on the North and Kuruwa on banks of the Brahmaputra.

Suburban rail network

A very important component of the plan to decongest Guwahati city would be an efficient Rapid Suburban Rail Network that would facilitate easy and comfortable movement between the satellite towns and Guwahati city. The frequency of this service would have to be such that it facilitates quick and easy travel that is more reliable/comfortable than road movement. This would encourage people to shift to the satellite towns to enjoy a better quality of life while experiencing the benefits of a city. Moreover, this rapid suburban rail network should also touch the other neighbouring towns en route.

In the first phase, a dedicated line would be necessary for the suburban rail network towards Azara-Mirza-Chaygaon-Boko along the existing railway line from Guwahati to Goalpara.

A dedicated suburban rail line may be built along the existing alignment up to Jagiroad. The present alignment is long and circuitous via Digaru-Panbari-Chandrapur-Panikhaiti up to Guwahati. A new alignment starting from Digaru to Tepesia and thereafter through a tunnel from Tepesia to Khanapara would shorten the route to Guwahati and may be considered at a later date.

It is understood that there is a proposal to construct a bridge over the river Brahmaputra from Panikhaiti on the South Bank to Kuruwa on the North Bank. This bridge needs to be a rail-cum-road bridge. The suburban rail network line may be laid over this bridge to the smart satellite town, proposed to be located between Kuruwa and the NH-52 to the North.

Towards the Panikhaiti-end, the network may be started from Narengi, at which point, commuters could switch over to the proposed Guwahati city Metro Rail System.

The present railway alignment in Assam is such that it does not touch most of the major towns which have come up along the National Highways. Hence, in the second phase, in order to shift some of the road freight to railways, the suburban railway network may be extended as mentioned below:

n The suburban rail line to the satellite town beyond Kuruwa may be extended in the second phase to NH-52 at Dumunichowk and then eastward to link the major towns of Mangaldai-Silapathar-Kharupetia. From Dumunichowk, the rail line may also be extended westward along NH-52 to Kamalpur and Rangiya and beyond;

n In this phase, the suburban line may be extended from Jagiroad to Nagaon; and

n Beyond Boko along NH-37, up to Goalpara via Dudhnoi.

The decongesting of roads and switching over to cheaper mode of rail travel would have cascading economic benefits. Moreover, from an environmental pint of view, this strategy would also contribute positively to the national goal of lowering carbon emission footprint.

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Strategies needed for future growth of Guwahati

GUWAHATI, the gateway to the northeastern states, has been growing at a considerable pace and is predicted to grow even faster in the future. Unfortunately, not a great deal of planning has gone behind Guwahati�s growth process and consequently, it has been haphazard, leading to inconvenience and poor quality of life for its residents and those who come over to conduct business, etc. Roads are narrow and getting increasingly congested with growing private vehicles. The public transport system, comprising mainly rashly-driven private buses, is almost nonexistent. The drainage system is poor and grossly inadequate to manage the large volume of rainwater/sewerage during the long monsoon season. This leads to flooding of large parts of the city. As an impact of climate change, we are likely to see more frequent bursts of heavy rainfall in the future with resultant flooding. Other public utilities and services, like supply of clean drinking water and disposal/management of garbage, etc., need considerable expansion and improvement. The situation would become progressively worse unless thoughtful, adequate and timely action is planned and executed in the right earnest.

There needs to be a short-term and a mid/long-term strategy to plan and sustain the growth of Guwahati city. Short-term actions could include, inter alia:

� Ban on roadside parking along the busy main roads of Guwahati city by creating parking areas at appropriate locations for cars, autos, rickshaws, scooters/motorcycles. The open drains along certain roads may be covered and parking areas/footpaths created on them, thereby creating more space for traffic movement;

� Modern buses may be put into service at frequent intervals in order to encourage people to shift from using private vehicles to mass transport system (buses for the time being). Moreover, the private buses must be disciplined and compelled to follow all rules;

� A more determined effort with very close monitoring of time targets must be made to put in place infrastructure for delivery of safe drinking water across the city;

� Roll out a more comprehensive strategy of segregation of dry and wet wastes with people�s participation, collection and finally processing/disposal of wastes;

� Masterplans to be drawn to properly develop new areas with adequately wide roads, drainage facility, etc., and with provision for future growth;

The short-term measures indicated above in respect of traffic management are expected to accommodate the growing vehicle population for about five/six years or so.

The mid-term and long-term plans could include work on the proposed Metro Rail system, which should be started in the right earnest and should progress on a mission mode, while elevated roads also need to be put in place urgently in certain areas.

Satellite towns

Smart satellite towns should be created in the suburbs of Guwahati providing good and rapid communication facilities between these towns and Guwahati city.

The facilities in these satellite towns should include, inter alia:

� Planned housing areas with markets for each locality and wide roads having provision for future growth;

� Roads should have separate walking and cycling tracks to encourage healthy lifestyle activities;

� Piped water supply system;

� Gas distribution network to supply piped natural gas;

� Underground electrical/communication cable networks and Wi-Fi facility;

� Properly planned drainage system and solid and liquid waste management and processing facilities;

� Planned market places (shops along the roads should not be permitted) and offices that would require minimum travelling by residents; there should also be adequate provision for parking;

� Good medical, educational, recreational and sports facilities;

� High-quality digital network facilities and with good digital connectivity with Guwahati city. This could, in fact, facilitate creation of sub-centres of public utility offices in the satellite towns in order to obviate the need to travel to Guwahati city;

� Public utility and commercial buildings that come under the ambit of the Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC) must be built in conformity with this code in order to enhance energy efficiency and reduce carbon emission. These buildings must also have rain-harvesting facilities incorporated and rooftop grid connected solar power generating facilities with net metering in place;

These towns should be located along the suburban rail network, considering various related issues. Some suggested locations are as follows:

� South of NH-37, between Sonapur and Khetri � to the East of Guwahati;

� South of NH-37, between Boko and Chaygaon � to the west of Guwahati; and

� In North Guwahati, between NH-52 on the North and Kuruwa on banks of the Brahmaputra.

Suburban rail network

A very important component of the plan to decongest Guwahati city would be an efficient Rapid Suburban Rail Network that would facilitate easy and comfortable movement between the satellite towns and Guwahati city. The frequency of this service would have to be such that it facilitates quick and easy travel that is more reliable/comfortable than road movement. This would encourage people to shift to the satellite towns to enjoy a better quality of life while experiencing the benefits of a city. Moreover, this rapid suburban rail network should also touch the other neighbouring towns en route.

In the first phase, a dedicated line would be necessary for the suburban rail network towards Azara-Mirza-Chaygaon-Boko along the existing railway line from Guwahati to Goalpara.

A dedicated suburban rail line may be built along the existing alignment up to Jagiroad. The present alignment is long and circuitous via Digaru-Panbari-Chandrapur-Panikhaiti up to Guwahati. A new alignment starting from Digaru to Tepesia and thereafter through a tunnel from Tepesia to Khanapara would shorten the route to Guwahati and may be considered at a later date.

It is understood that there is a proposal to construct a bridge over the river Brahmaputra from Panikhaiti on the South Bank to Kuruwa on the North Bank. This bridge needs to be a rail-cum-road bridge. The suburban rail network line may be laid over this bridge to the smart satellite town, proposed to be located between Kuruwa and the NH-52 to the North.

Towards the Panikhaiti-end, the network may be started from Narengi, at which point, commuters could switch over to the proposed Guwahati city Metro Rail System.

The present railway alignment in Assam is such that it does not touch most of the major towns which have come up along the National Highways. Hence, in the second phase, in order to shift some of the road freight to railways, the suburban railway network may be extended as mentioned below:

n The suburban rail line to the satellite town beyond Kuruwa may be extended in the second phase to NH-52 at Dumunichowk and then eastward to link the major towns of Mangaldai-Silapathar-Kharupetia. From Dumunichowk, the rail line may also be extended westward along NH-52 to Kamalpur and Rangiya and beyond;

n In this phase, the suburban line may be extended from Jagiroad to Nagaon; and

n Beyond Boko along NH-37, up to Goalpara via Dudhnoi.

The decongesting of roads and switching over to cheaper mode of rail travel would have cascading economic benefits. Moreover, from an environmental pint of view, this strategy would also contribute positively to the national goal of lowering carbon emission footprint.