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It is an irony that the city is dotted with wall posts

A heap of garbage lies right next to the sacred monoliths near the District Council office in Garikhana. Tourists are greeted with this kind of sight the moment they enter the city limits. (Photo contributed)

and banners which display in big bold letters the message: ‘Keep Shillong Clean And Green’, whereas the ground reality is far from reality.

This once pristine city had a special place of pride among all the hill stations in the country for its cleanliness and greenery. However, the cleanliness and greenery of the city is a thing of the past. Today the city looks more like a widow who has lost all her beauty and sheen.

Local residents of the city seem to have resigned themselves to the fact that restoring the city to its former glory is a lost cause. Hence they do nothing to reverse the fortunes of the city.

Tourists who have visited the city in the past and returned back recently, are appalled at the gradual decline of the city. They have expressed surprise and at the same time questioned why the Pine City was being allowed to reach a point of no return.

These tourists, who spend their valuable earnings to come to Shillong, are greeted with the sight of garbage heaps and waste dumped everywhere.

When they visit any tourist spot in and around the city, of which there are many thanks to Nature’s abundant blessings on our State, they are yet again greeted with the disgusting sight of packets of cigarettes, chips, empty plastic bottles, one-time glasses, plates and what nots.

Coming to the civic sense among the residents, the less said the better.

Everywhere you go, be it hospitals, schools, offices or even the streets of the city, the only thing one can notice are red stains everywhere or another familiar sight of people (note: gents only) relieving themselves in full public view.

“If one goes out for a walk in the late afternoon, you will find heaps of garbage strewn everywhere, even in prime spots in the city. Also you will find people eating, drinking and smoking all the time inside their vehicles and throwing the empty packets and wrappers out of their vehicles on the road,” another elderly resident said, while adding that no rule or law can put an end to these dirty habits among the residents unless the people themselves change their habits.

“People have the habit of consuming tobacco and kwai (betel nuts and leaves) and then spitting anywhere they feel like. They also resort to relieving themselves wherever they like without least bothering about civic rules. They have no civic sense and this is very bad as it tends to present a bad picture about the city and its residents as a whole,” a Shillongite said while speaking to this scribe.

“This is entirely an individual choice. If one is educated he will definitely know the adverse effects of spitting and passing urine everywhere which severely dents the pride of this once beautiful city,” a college student stated.

Is the administration to blame for this?

Certainly, say residents. “Why can’t the Government adopt stringent measures to prevent anyone from spoiling the cleanliness of the city?” they questioned.

“So many rules and laws are made in the State but the government every time comes a cropper when it comes to implementing the rules,” an observer told this scribe.

He also listed several rules that are in place on in paper but not properly implemented due to lack of will-power. “There is a ban on use of polythene bags and another ban on smoking in public places, but both rules are being blatantly violated by people,” he said.

It may not be out of place to point out that in August 2009, the Urban Affairs department and the Shillong Municipal Board had, in a joint decision, decided to appoint 49 volunteers drawn from different sources including staff of the Urban Affairs department who would monitor maintenance of cleanliness in prime spots in the city and levy penalty on anyone found relieving on the streets, spitting or indulging in other nuisances.

The then Urban Affairs Minister Paul Lyngdoh had also announced that the Shillong Municipal Act, 1992 would be amended so that greater fine could be levied on anyone found littering on the road side.

It would not be surprising to learn that the proposal of the amendment is presently lying in cold storage while the whereabouts of the 49 volunteers remains unknown.

Shillong is nearing its saturation point. The only remaining green zones in the city, which are few and far between, are also falling prey to unplanned and selfishly-motivated urbanization. The government’s hand in this cannot be overlooked.

Buildings, malls, shopping centres are coming up everywhere, with due ‘blessings’ of legislators, local Dorbar Shnong and officials of the concerned departments who permit such construction. It’s high time that Shillongites realize the urgent need to save the city before it is too late.

To start with they can try to inculcate in themselves a proper respect for civic sense. (By Ibankyntiew Mawrie)

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