Green Space to Mall: Need No More Concrete Structures in Shillong!

Locals, who are the main stakeholders of the city, have not been asked their views about the government’s plans.

Updated
My Report
3 min read

Video Editor: Deepthi Ramdas
Video Producer: Aastha Gulati
Cameraperson: Embor Sayo

The Meghalaya government is facing a lot of flak over its decision to create a shopping mall over a heritage site, which was earlier approved to be developed into an ‘Iconic Structure.’

While the government had itself floated the idea and invited tenders on this basis, Prestone Tynsong, the deputy chief minister of Meghalaya, has now said the state government is considering a shopping mall at Barik Junction. The site currently houses an old PWD office and spans across 3.5 acre.

Shockingly, locals in Shillong, who are the main stakeholders of the city, have not been asked their views.

From ‘Iconic Place’ to Shopping Mall

On 17 June 2019, Meghalaya's Urban Development Minister Hamlet Dohling said that the site in Shillong's Barik will be converted into an iconic place under the smart city project.

Come November 2019, the Urban Affairs Department of Meghalaya started calling for global tenders to create a concept for developing over one lakh square feet of land into an area which would include green spaces, an amphitheatre, some seating spaces to allow outdoor functions, among others.

A consortium of architects, of which local architect Aiban Mawkhroh is a part, won the first prize for a wonderfully conceived iconic place.

Mawkroh had said in an interview that the idea behind the concept was to create a replica of Meghalaya, complete with lots of greenery to allow the polluted city some breathing space.

However, the deputy CM told a news channel recently that a shopping mall would instead come up at the place because the land belongs to the PWD and the state needs revenue, which the mall would generate.

‘Need Green Space, Not Concrete Structures’

Instead of a heritage site, a prototype of Delhi’s Select Citywalk Mall is being contemplated. We spoke to Patricia Mukhim, editor of The Shillong Times, who said:

“How can a mall be called an iconic structure? The government alone cannot take a far-reaching decision to have a mall in the middle of the city and just short of 1 km of the state secretariat. It is not acceptable.”

Angela Rangad, an activist, said that the ecological costs of the mall far outweigh the economical benefits. Taking the example of Wah Umkhrah river, she says:

“There have been ugly, illegal constructions all along Wah Umkhrah, causing it to flood. We weren’t able to raise our voice enough to stop that. So, this time around, we cannot allow this project to go ahead.”

Renowned musician Rudy Wallang said that there is not one place that artists from Shillong can be proud of, and a mall certainly won't change that.

"People say Shillong is the rock capital, but we don’t have even one auditorium in our name," he says.

‘Why Another Shopping Complex?’

The architect who won an award for conceptualising the 'Iconic Place' said that there are shops and public amenities in the model designed by him and teammate C Rajagopal as well:

“Police Bazar is only 1 km away. There is also MUDA Shopping Complex. So, why the need for another shopping complex?”

Further, he said that his concept would put a 3.5 acre green space in the middle of the town, giving Shillong a much required lung space. “Why this ridiculous idea of a shopping mall,” he asks.

Meghalaya Deputy CM Tynsong defended his idea, saying that the shopping mall in Shillong will be one of standard. He said that the mall will be an “inclusive shopping mall,” having its own green space and public space for cultural events like music nights as well as economic change.

“Barik Point is adjacent to the highway and the state roads. What is the need of turning it green? We already have Lady Hydari Park, next to Barik Point.”
Prestone Tynsong, Dy CM, Meghalaya

(All ‘My Report' branded stories are submitted by citizen journalists to The Quint. Though The Quint inquires into the claims/allegations from all parties before publishing, the report and the views expressed above are the citizen journalist's own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for the same.)

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