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Nagaland’s Urban Boom

It is not surprising at all to learn that Nagaland’s urban population continue to witness an upward spiral. This was also the case when the last census report in 2001 was released. According to the latest data brought out by Directorate of Census Operations, the growth rate of urban population in Nagaland stands at 67.38% which is much higher than the national growth rate of 31.80%. In contrast, negative growth rate has been recorded in rural areas of Nagaland at -14.59%. While the reason cited behind such a high growth rate is that 11 new towns were notified by the state government and in addition 7 new census towns were identified, the fact of the matter is that this urban boom is not spread across the new towns as much as we would like it to be but unfortunately it seems to be concentrated around Kohima and Dimapur. So while no doubt new towns are emerging and people are migrating there, yet the point of impact is the greatest in Kohima and Dimapur. This is the worry for policy makers i.e. on how to engineer the development of other growth centres and at the same time ensuring that urban infrastructure of Dimapur and Kohima is able to keep pace with the continuing urban boom.
In fact even as census data over the last ten years have indicated the rapid urban growth of the two main towns of Nagaland, yet our government has not been able to respond appropriately to the problems at hand. The concern Minister has been talking about the need to make concerted effort, while actually we should be already doing this long time ago. In the context of the new towns and urban centres coming up, the Minister is right that it is not late to start planning. However all of us know that in Kohima and Dimapur, the urban growth has spiralled out of control. Today they represent the image of overcrowding, haphazard traffic growth, growing pollution, filth, water shortage, and a general deterioration of basic civic amenities. So the government will have to adopt different approaches as far as urban planning goes. For instance we can encourage the growth of satellite towns on the outskirts of Kohima and Dimapur. In fact this is already happening, although the State capital seems to be facing greater problems of expanding.       
One key factor accentuating the rural-to-urban exodus (i.e. to Kohima and Dimapur) is as a result of imbalance in terms of availability of amenities and employment opportunities in favour of the latter. And till today the inclination is on these two urban hubs. Policy makers must encourage the growth of the emerging new towns with economic opportunities so that people from far flung areas are not driven to Dimapur or Kohima for availing of economic benefits. Then the long term solution is on improvement of amenities and infrastructure such as piped water supply, schools, hospitals, electrical power supply, the neglect of which accentuates the urban exodus. As far as dealing with the problems in existing urban towns, Municipal authorities have to keep pace with city growth both spatially or in terms of infrastructure management. Policy makers need to wake up or else the nuisance brought about by the process of urbanization will become insurmountable. For this, a holistic approach to urban and peripheral area planning with a long term perspective as well as greater stress on rural development is needed, which will prevent the need for people to migrate to urban areas.