Yanpvuo Kikon (Yan)
I took one French artist who visited Kohima few years back to give him a good view our beautiful city and this tourist exclaimed from the Cathedral point, looking down at Kohima, “Oh! It is beautiful! It looks like a favela!”
When I went back home and googled the word ‘favela’ I found out that a favela is Portuguese term for slum, usually referring to low-income historically informal urban area in Brazil.
My ego was a bit hurt but had to digest the fact. I love Kohima so much to the point of being almost obsessed with the thought that if I had the opportunity to live anywhere in the world – Without a doubt, it would be Kohima and nowhere else. I always picture KOHIMA as a beautiful city with the image of the grand Puliebadze standing tall beneath the bright blue skies filled with chunks of the whitest clouds as we walk beside the iconic world war II cemetery reminding us of one of the greatest battle in World War II with our streets donned by friendly, beautiful and hospitable people. Kohima is an iconic brand which holds immense potential to set an example for hill cities not only in India but globally.
However, at present this beautiful city is facing numerous challenges thereby turning the city into a sad and depressing state. Massive potholes, dust and unregulated rapid construction activities with scary and extremely ugly building structures combined with the lack of love for the community and our city by the inhabitants is gradually turning this historic capital into a gigantic slum. The same goes for Mokokchung, Wokha, Dimapur and other towns in Nagaland.
The time has come for the guardians of Kohima – the Kohima Village authorities to take note and set an example for other hill towns for the need to push and enforce a ‘Act Local, Think Global’ form of regulation for the city in order to take control of the uncontrolled and REGULATE the deregulated form of development hampering the entire city. Similarly, other cities can take the learning from Kohima and implement the same model for regulating our urban towns.
WHAT IS DONE CANNOT BE UNDONE. But what can be done is that going forward any building or structure to be constructed must be regulated by a written technical law comprising of technical civil, architecture, structure engineering and urban planning methodologies in consonance with local laws, Art 371A with effort from the respective community leadership.
External laws are not suitable to govern tribal communities because of dynamics and even emotional factors which nobody from an outside entity would be able to comprehend, resulting in conflict of interest and incompatibility to the social fabric of a tribal system.
We are all aware that Nagaland building bye laws is already passed in 2012 and you can download from here -http://kmc.nagaland.gov.in/files/Building%20Bye-Laws.pdf
But till now nobody has been able to enforce it.
We must understand the fact that Rural law is not applicable in a Urban habitat. Kohima is no longer a rural area, hence it cannot be regulated anymore by rural and outdated law. The rural law should be upgraded into an urban law in order to regulate a city in a better and efficient manner. Kohima is one of the most beautiful places but because of unregulated urbanization, it has become a favela, a gigantic slum.
It is clear that KMC is not able to enforce anything now due to complexities related to our tribal societal fabric. So I strongly feel that it is time for the guardians of each city/town, the Kohima village (In case of Kohima) to take up the issue and review the building bye laws and enforce in order to regulate the unregulated city.
KMC had mentioned that they lack skilled manpower such as architects or civil engineers to execute the building bye laws.
WHY DO WE NEED TECHNICAL MANPOWER TO ENFORCE THIS LAW? A person who is not a technical expert such as a civil engineer, architect or structure engineer will not have the competency to test & calculate the load of a building or give the assessment of the structure stability, verify the building compliance to seismic zone requirements etc
I have worked with multiple State Governments in India and several municipalities, town & country planning boards are unable to afford skilled architects and civil/structure engineers. There is no need to waste public money to employ more people into the jam packed Government cadre anymore. There are smarter ways to deal with this challenge.
Let me share what Uttarakhand and other States have done. Many of these Governments are also short of skilled man power like structure engineer or architects in their Town and Country Planning boards. What they did? They simply empaneled (Licensed) qualified architects and civil engineers in their city without employing these people into Government cadre. The duty of these architects and civil engineers is simply to ensure that every single building that is being built from now on in their city, adheres to the law of the land – the building bye laws. Non-adherence can be penalized as per law of the land. Unless it is infringement of Fundamental Rights, nothing can over-rule the Rule of Law. The strength of written Rule of Law is the need of the hour in Nagaland.
Process – If a person is going to build a house. He needs to have his/her building plan reviewed by the local community empaneled architect and structure engineer – These local community empaneled local engineers just ensure that building/structure is built as per the law! Example, ample distance from road is maintained, garage is in place, the height of building is maintained, structure is stable and earthquake resistant in compliance to seismic zone requirements, ample space for roads, footpaths etc etc and also maybe if necessary comply to certain aesthetics standards so that the overall city looks beautiful and standard.
If a person is spending minimum Rs.40 lac to build a house, she/he should be able to spare a few thousand rupees to make building plan from empaneled architect, structure engineer in compliance to the law of the land!
Unless we have such a regulation in place, Kohima is already becoming a giant slum with so much chaos, we need to enforce this building bye law in an indigenous yet smart way. Too many cooks do spoil the curry and a consensus can never be agreed upon in a lifetime. It is better to set a timeline and push for gathering inputs from the wiser lot of the community along with technical experts. Focusing only on the issue of building bye laws without getting diverted into other issues can help resolve this and enforce it immediately before things go out of hand in managing our capital and other towns.
Those corrupted and selfish individuals should be replaced by those who care for our community than oneself, in order for our sick community and the sick State to be restored into the path of a happy, prosperous acting locally and thinking globally, productive and sustainable progressive community.
What is done cannot be undone, but what is yet happen in future can be regulated and controlled if we take steps today. Ensuring small solutions such as Online Inner Line Permit, indigenous/community enforced building bye laws etc would make a huge difference in building a healthy, beautiful and sustainable community. Let us have a vision for this beautiful city. It is sick today, but with combined efforts and team work, I believe we can turn Kohima into the city of our dreams and set an example to the rest of the country and the world.
From a being compared to a Brazilian favela, we can turn Kohima into a Greek Santorini or even better. Let us all work towards building our dream Dimapur, Mokokchung, Wokha, Kiphire, Tuensang, Peren, Ukhrul, Mon, Pfustero, Zunheboto, Senapati, Mao and yes all urban or rural habitats by creating relevant Rural or Urban laws to regulate our habitats which will allow us to live and thrive in harmony with nature and with one another.
Er. Yanpvuo Kikon, Senior Government Advisory Consultant at EY (EY is the among the four largest multinational professional services firms in the world headquartered in London, England). Yanpvuo Kikon is also a social entrepreneur and founder of The Naga Blog.