What will happen to the proposed construction of an iconic structure at Barik point in Shillong, initiated under the Smart City Mission by the Meghalaya urban affairs department?

What will happen now as chief minister Conrad K Sangma has changed his urban affairs minister from Hamletson Dohling to Sniawbhalang Dhar?

These are questions being raised after the Meghalaya government made a move to shelve the world class landmark project, to facilitate building of a shopping mall at Barik.

And now the question is being asked further after minister and Mylliem MLA, Hamletson Dohling lost the urban affairs portfolio and the department has been now allotted to another minister, Sniawbhalang Dhar.

Dhar comes from the construction magnate family that owns the Dhar construction company.

Dohling, the former Khasi Students’ Union (KSU) leader is now looking as minister in-charge of community and rural development department, after losing the urban affairs department to Dhar.

Dhar who took charge of the urban affairs last week, got a query from media persons if an idea to construct an iconic structure at Barik would be replaced by another idea of building a shopping mall.

On Monday, when Dhar was asked abou the iconic structure, said that the state government would take a decision in the interest of the state on the issue.

There has opposition against the move of the MDA government to change from an earlier plan to build an iconic structure to constructing a shopping mall at Barik.

“Whether constructions of a mall or other projects like roads, they are part of the development of the state. But anything we do or decide, it will be for the benefit of the people of the state,” Dhar said.

Whether he would go ahead as urban affairs minister with an earlier decision of the department to build an “Iconic Structure” at Barik point under Smart City Mission where an architectural design had also been finalized, Dhar said, “we will take the best decision after discussing together.”

Dhar also shifted the responsibility to deputy chief minister Prestone Tynsong asking media persons to speak to him as he can tell better on the project at Barik since the area belongs to the state PWD (roads).

Tynsong, who switched over from the Congress to the Conrad Sangma-led NPP prior to the Assembly elections in 2018, is the ‘number 2 man’ in the NPP-led MDA government now, looking after several departments including the state PWD (roads).

The United Democratic Party (UDP) which is part of the MDA government, has already raised strong objection against any move to build the shopping mall.

The Khasi Students Union also opposed the state government’s move to change its decision from building an Iconic Structure to constructing a shopping mall at Barik point.

Former Urban Affairs minister, Hamletson Dohling had in 2019 come up with a build an iconic structure at Barik under Smart City Mission, after which, firms were invited to participate in a competition to display their architectural designs for the construction of the proposed iconic structure.

The state government had already spent Rs 12 lakh for the purpose.

Five firms which include the Department of Architecture, Science and Technology NEHU, Design Cell Faws Design Shillong, Flying Elephant Studio Project, Bangalore, M/s Kshestra, Hyderabad and Visio Architecture Ltd Port Louis, Mauritius, had participated in the competition.

Out of five firms, a design prepared by the Flying Elephant Studio Project, Bangalore was selected.

The view of Barik point at present. Image: Northeast Now

It was proposed that facilities and infrastructure like museum, park, parking space, among others would form part of the proposed Iconic Structure.

The design area at Barik is about 3.5 acres.

The specific location of the landmark shall be proposed by the contestants.

The design proposal should aim to provide a smart structure with smart services, parking, with an open cultural space for the public spaces catering especially to youth development such as exhibition areas, multipurpose halls, amphitheater and green elevated corridors/links may be developed to other areas of interest in the vicinity of the site. Innovative design and construction techniques to address local urban issues while reflecting a regional identity should be a major consideration.

Now that the minister in-charge urban affairs department has been suddenly changed from Dohling to Dhar, it is interesting to see whether an iconic structure or a shopping mall will come up at Barik.

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