Ladakh Ecological Development Group (LEDeG) organised its fourth talk of the Liveable Leh Talk Series at Moravian Mission School auditorium hall on June 25. The topic for the talk was ‘Walkability in Leh’ and the speaker for the occasion was Rigzin Spalgon, Administrator, Municipal Committee Leh (MCL). The talk series is a part of the Liveable Leh Project 2030 which is funded by European Union and BORDA.
Unlike the three other talks which were held at LEDeg Office campus, this talk was conducted at Moravian Mission School auditorium hall keeping in mind one of the assignments taken up by LEDeG for the redevelopment of the Changspa Street and making it pedestrian-friendly.
The prominent guests present on the occasion were Tsering Nurboo, president of Ladakh Buddhist Association (LBA) Nubra; GR Lassu, Working Committee Member, LEDeG; T Chorol and Tsewang Dolma from Women’s Alliance of Ladakh, Tondup Wangail, Senior Transport Planner; Lobzang Visuddha, chairman of Wildlife Conservation and Birds Club of Ladakh, and many foreign tourists and locals.
Dr Norden Otzer, Executive Director of LEDeG, made the welcome speech and stressed on the need to promote walking in Leh due to its positive impact on health, society and the environment. He said that pedestrianisation is the need of the hour in Leh. He further added that people always act hostile towards new projects, but they should understand it is for their own good. He cited the example of Leh market which attracted criticism from the people but which has now been transformed into one of the best markets.
Thereafter, Rigzin Spalgon spoke about walking in Leh. He accepted that Leh was not a planned city and that the road in and around Leh town was sufficient for the people of Leh to walk on. He said the road was meant for the pedestrians as there were hardly few hundred cars at that time plying on the roads. He said the number of vehicles has now increased to 30,000, including second-hand or used cars and that has led to increase in cases of road rage and accidents.
He said that there was a need for a strategy or a plan to promote walking and making roads pedestrian-friendly. He also added that the footpaths in Leh are designed in such a way that they discourage people from walking. He said that there are illegal parking on footpaths. To overcome these problems, Rigzin shared that he approached LEDeG and asked them to provide a design which gives preference to pedestrians.
He shared that his parents never dropped him to school because they knew there was enough space for him to walk. But nowadays, majority of the parents drop their kids at school. He said that it meant something was not well. He said that vehicles dominate the roads and not the pedestrians. He then informed the audience about the re-development of the Changspa Street. He said it was not a trial and error activity but rather an effort to force people to walk.
He counted the issues faced by the people who don’t walk and also the benefits of walking. He said the government took the Changspa Street to make it pedestrian-friendly. The government will bring other roads, such as Fort Road, Old Road and Yurtung into purview and then replicate the design. He made it clear to the people of Ladakh that encouraging walking is the only way if we were to keep the tourists happy. He appealed to the people of Ladakh to work collectively to make these projects successful.
He also asked youngsters to come forward and find a solution for the issues affecting Leh. He said he would be happy when Leh becomes a liveable town. He expressed his gratitude towards LEDeG for their initiative to make Leh a liveable town and for taking up the issues which nobody had ever discussed earlier. He asked other organisations to come forward to make Leh a liveable and pedestrian-friendly town.
Faisal Ashoor and Nurboo regaled the audience with melodious songs.