Parking of motor vehicles is one of the major problems in every urban area. Sikkim, a rapidly growing place in terms of urbanisation too, is not left behind when it comes to issues related to parking. The ever increasing ownership of motor vehicles in the state is considered to be one of the main reasons behind this, especially Gangtok.
Already modernised into a concrete jungle, this little town which happens to be the state’s capital, lacks proper parking facilities and also suffers an imbalance in car parking area and car ownership ratio.
When it comes to parking zones, it was noticed that due to ineffective land use and improper planning, the town is facing parking facility problems. Hence, to solve this, the state Transport Department framed and implemented a rule which made a car buyer mandatory to show a parking space before he registers a vehicle. However, this rule soon made no difference, as people started showing one parking space for number of vehicles, to which the concerned department could do nothing and the vehicles were eventually registered.
Any space if seems vacant, automatically turns into a parking zone. The old STNM hospital premises in Gangtok, turning into a parking area for numerous motor vehicles as soon as the place was vacated, is one such example. However, one cannot deny that it eased the parking problem to a little extent. This also proves that how Gangtok is in dire need of serious attention in regard to motor vehicle parking.
With almost every individual preferring to own a four or a two wheeler, these need a parking space at at least two places in a day i.e. at or around the workplace during daytime and at or around one’s home at night.
“One needs to think twice before we drive to Gangtok because finding a parking spot is a big problem”, says Dorjee Bhutia who owns a car.
Shortage of parking spaces also adds to the traffic congestion, which Gangtok and its surrounding areas battle everyday.
Through the years the capital has witnessed a swift increase in road side parking, so much so that some even thoughtlessly park their four or two wheelers on the footpath or on a narrow road, making it difficult for the people and other motor vehicles to pass through, further creating traffic jam.
“The Traffic Police try their best to manage the congested traffic which happens due to many certain reasons. Connecting roads, wrong parking, indisciplined driving, etc. are some factors that lead to load the traffic on the road here”, informs the Superintendent of Police, East, Hari Chettri.
Times are changing and so are our needs which at times result to affect us adversely. Hence, effective solutions, little or large needs to be put forth. For a start, the Urban Development & Housing Department (UD&HD) or the Gangtok Municipal Corporation (GMC) should seek for more efficient and innovative solutions to tackle this issue.
As informed by the GMC Mayor, Shakti Singh Chaudhary, the GMC has been working in close coordination with all the concerned departments in this regard.
“Dead parking is one of the major contributors to parking problem in Gangtok, as motor vehicle owners park at government allotted parking areas and sometimes they park for more than a month. Such areas are not meant for continuous parking, hence a situation is created where there is no space left for other motor vehicles to park”, he tells and adds, “people can afford to buy expensive vehicles, but they refuse to pay an amount of Rs. 20 as parking fee and end up parking at vacant spaces”.
When it comes to traffic jam, many have been vouching for wide use of public transport, which they believe may bring some relief on the road. However, again, there are many who contradict this idea.
“It’s good for local commuters to use public transport. But there are very less bus services and the taxi fare are ever increasing. Also there are many who are not habituated to use public transport”, says one Rohit Thapa.
Though, in one hand he feels that public transport is helpful if we think at large, but when it comes to an individual, owning a motor vehicle is better.
“Public buses have certain time to arrive; and for taxis, they are hard to find during tourist season. Now, if one owns a four or a two wheeler, one can always travel as per their convenient time”, he adds.
Time and again, wide allocation of government vehicles to the every government employee (officer) in the state has come under light with public ranting over it and blaming these vehicles for being one of the major causes of parking and traffic congestion. People feel that these vehicles occupy all the space at the office premises, hence leaving no space for parking for the public who frequent or visit the department.
“Government must frame a rule and start vehicle pool system for government officers, rather that providing vehicle to everyone officer. This, I feel will not only be helpful in solving traffic and parking problem, but also cut down the government expenses on officers”, says a government official who wants to be under anonymity.
“We often get to see that the government vehicle is busier in doing family duty of the officers, mostly school duty. If their children use school buses and other vehicle pool-in services meant for school duty, I feel it may help curb the parking problem to some extent. Also if the government vehicles for each officer can be provided to officials from and above Joint Secretary level”, he adds.
According to the UD&HD Minister, Arun Upreti, the concerned department have plans to build more of multipurpose buildings with parking facilities in and around the town.
“Parking has become a problem now a days. Not only Gangtok, but majority of places are facing parking issues; the department is concerned about the issue and have plans to build multipurpose buildings with parking, but sometimes due to lack of space, the department also faces problem, otherwise there are plans to build such spaces”, says Upreti.
He informs that the department is identifying spaces for constructing parking areas with modern technologies and computerised parking system, where in a small space many motor vehicles can be parked.
“People will very soon see the results as the department and the government are concerned about this matter and are working on a priority basis”, he advocates and notifies that few locations have already been identified whose documentation and paper works are underway.
“Government already has plans and projects to build parking spaces to curb the issues of parking and traffic congestion. If there is any shortage of funds with the government, the department will build the same in PPP mode”, informs the Minister.
It is high time that every individual of the state must realise that this issue doesn’t pertain due to a certain group of motor vehicle owners or the government officials with their allocated vehicles. To solve the issue is not only the responsibility of the concerned department(s), Traffic Police or the government, but it is an issue that concerns all and therefore, needs a thoughtful and a collaborative effort to curb it.