Sanitation: A shared liability

Imkong Walling

Visuals are a given, nowadays, whenever Dimapur is inundated in floodwaters. The deluge of visuals, captured by the victims and onlookers alike, generally provoke two types of emotions— pity for the affected people and resentment, alongwith, disgust to what is readily regarded as governmental neglect.   

The monologues and the wider public opinion that accompany the visuals paint the notion of an accusatory finger pointing towards the government and the municipal authority. On the other side, the government laments a general lack of civic responsibility among the citizenry with the recent remark coming from the MLA incharge of Municipal Affairs and Urban Development. The criticism is mutual, only the tragedy is that there has been no meeting point.

Arriving at a meeting point would first require admitting that the flooding that follows a downpour is the result of a combination of factors, natural as well as human-made. It requires understanding the topography of the Dhansiri valley, a river plain dotted by low lying areas, on which grew a settlement around a railhead that haphazardly urbanised. There was no town planning, there was no building code.

It did not matter if a piece of land was a swamp or paddy-field, markets and buildings cropped up. No effort was made to elevate low-lying lands. It was a free-for-all wherein the settlers in cahoots with revenue officials clandestinely and successfully laid claim over lands held by the government.

A special Article of the Constitution further ensured there was no enforcement of building codes setting the stage for what many residents of Dimapur have to endure today. The right to retaining rights over land the customary way saw to it that roads remained narrow with no room for drainage, further aggravated by unrestrained encroachment.

Gradually, the town’s commercial value grew and alongwith it came more people seeking to develop real estate without a care for public amenities like roads, power lines and drainage.

As the population and buildings grew, so did the waste. Streams flowing through the town came to be adopted as the preferred waste drainage, into which were poured all types of junk. Drains later began to be built but there was hardly any Right of Way.
There came a semblance of organised waste collection and disposal — but sans segregation — while marshes and water bodies dotting the landscape became parallel garbage depots.

The city and business grew, civic responsibility did not.  It is reflected in people, out on the thoroughfares, nonchalantly tossing finished packets/bottles and polythene bags or any solid waste right on the road or the nearest drain.

The end result— floodwaters and garbage overflowing from narrow clogged drains, everytime the rain clouds pass through.
What Dimapur currently needs is sensitisation— awareness that instills in the individual a sense of common good and replacing the propensity of the citizenry to ever place themselves as the victim of governmental neglect.

It should be followed up by a dedicated mission that not only enables but also incentivises waste segregation at the household level by partnering with the ‘colony councils.’  The municipal authority, in turn, must act as an unyielding facilitator by ensuring the required wherewithal, which includes reliable waste segregation and recycling enterprises.

Remedying the clogged mess is a shared liability, in which the citizenry and the municipal authority balance each other.

The writer is a Principal Correspondent at The Morung Express. Comments can be sent to