Namnang Walkways Gangtok – Background

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Urban Analysis | The Need for a footpath at Namnang

Traffic Analysis of Gangtok

The National Highway 31A connects Gangtok to the rest of India through Siliguri. It also connects to Darjeeling, Kalimpong and other towns and villages in the neighboring state of West Bengal. The nearest airport, Bagdogra and railway stations at Siliguri and New Jalpaiguri are 120 kms away from Gangtok. Gangtok’s regional influence primarily extends towards the South, the East and the West districts. The linkages to the North are not as developed and thus there is not as much influence in this district. The opening of the trade route to China via Nathula is seen to have a profound impact on the role of Gangtok as a major influence on the entire region. This condition is yet to reach its potential.

Gangtok is the main tourism hub of Sikkim. The work force participation is 48% and, since the work centers, commercial centers, recreational centers and transport terminals are the major traffic generating nodes, a large quantity of vehicular movement is seen to develop by to and fro traffic to these work centers. Traffic generated by tourists during peak season is found to be extremely heavy.

Inter and Intra state travel depends on Bus terminals and Taxi stands. These are located at Paljor Stadium Road, at the private taxi stand near the Police Headquarters and the Children’s park as well as Deorali. Being within the city, a high volume of traffic is generated in these areas. There is also an extremely high volume of traffic between MG Marg and Zero Point area because of the location of the work centers – offices, institutions, commercial establishment as well as places of tourist interest and easy access to the commercial hub of MG Marg, Tibet Road and Namnang. Due to the absence of other forms of public transportation such as rail adequate accessibility to the cable car, roads transport all passengers and goods. The major road is the National Highway, (NH 31A) which is goes through the heart of the town and forms the major spine from which all the secondary and tertiary roads branch out. The other major roads are the North Sikkim Highway connecting Gangtok with the North District and the Jawaharlal Nehru Road, which leads to Nathula and is the trade route link between China and India.

Current Scenario

Gangtok is a linear city that has developed along the arterial roads, especially the National Highway 31A. The length of the city is around 25kms. The NH31A, the North Sikkim Highway, Indira bypass and JN Road act as the major regional roads converging at or passing through the city. Apart from these, the major city roads are Tibet road, MG Marg (now pedestrian), Kazi Road, Paljor Stadium Road, Indira bypass and Namnang Road that connect to the National Highway. In addition to these, there are several other roads in the city that provide internal accessibility.

a. Most of the road length in Gangtok, is of two lane undivided carriageway with a footpath on one side of the road and a drain on the other. The steep road gradient of the different stretches coupled with spiral road configuration act as a constraint for smooth vehicular as well as pedestrian traffic

b. About 75% of the primary road network has a carriageway ranging from 6 – 8m. Another 25% of the road length has a carriageway ranging from 8 – 10m. There is no road apart from M.G. Marg that has a divided carriageway in Gangtok and with its pedestrianization; there are no roads that qualify for double carriageway. The Indira bypass has a total length of 11.2km. The National Highway has a footpath running along its entire length from Ridge Park, Zero Point upto Ranipul. The width of the footpath is 1.2m inclusive of the railing and, this seems inadequate given the high pedestrian volume. The Right of Way (ROW) of NH31A for 69% of its length in Gangtok is 5 – 10m wide. The average carriageway width of other roads in Gangtok is 5.5 – 7m wide.

c. The existing roads of Gangtok are essentially narrow to accommodate the high volume of traffic and the road geometry is inappropriate. The gradient of roads is also moderately high in certain lengths to the tune of 1:10 gradient, especially along Kazi Road, Tibet Road, Namnang Road, Sichey Road and the Paljor Stadium Road because of having to negotiate a hostile terrain.

d. The vehicular accessibility to various areas is limited and no organized public transport is available. There is an urgent need to provide a suitable public transport system addressing the travel demand and pattern.

e. There are no designated terminal facilities for goods vehicles from where items brought from outside the town are transported to the local sites in smaller vehicles.

f. About 89% of the passenger trips are intra-city in nature i.e. interact or have trip ends within Gangtok city. Only 11% is through traffic. The average trip ranges between 8 – 10kms, which shows the interdependence of surrounding areas on Gangtok. Out of the total vehicular trips intercepted at the selected locations in and around the city, 38% of the trips were made for work, 15% for education, 17% for shopping and remaining 30% for other purposes. Of the total goods vehicles intercepted at Gangtok city limits, 66% of LCVs / Tempos and 75% of two and three axle trucks have both the origin and destination within Gangtok city. The goods traffic desire pattern reveals that 63% of the trips are to Gangtok. *

g. Interaction of Gangtok with other settlements is observed to be high. On an average day, about 30,000 vehicles enter and exit Gangtok. The maximum volume of traffic is between Indira bypass and Metro Point (55,174 PCU) while the volume between Zero point and Metro point is quite high (approx. 36,500 PCU) Of the total trips, about 74% generated, 64% of the trips are attracted by Gangtok city itself. This clearly presents Gangtok as a major consumption and distribution center in the state of Sikkim. *

b. About 75% of the primary road network has a carriageway ranging from 6 – 8m. Another 25% of the road length has a carriageway ranging from 8 – 10m. There is no road apart from M.G. Marg that has a divided carriageway in Gangtok and with its pedestrianization; there are no roads that qualify for double carriageway. The Indira bypass has a total length of 11.2km. The National Highway has a footpath running along its entire length from Ridge Park, Zero Point upto Ranipul. The width of the footpath is 1.2m inclusive of the railing and, this seems inadequate given the high pedestrian volume. The Right of Way (ROW) of NH31A for 69% of its length in Gangtok is 5 – 10m wide. The average carriageway width of other roads in Gangtok is 5.5 – 7m wide.

c. The existing roads of Gangtok are essentially narrow to accommodate the high volume of traffic and the road geometry is inappropriate. The gradient of roads is also moderately high in certain lengths to the tune of 1:10 gradient, especially along Kazi Road, Tibet Road, Namnang Road, Sichey Road and the Paljor Stadium Road because of having to negotiate a hostile terrain.

d. The vehicular accessibility to various areas is limited and no organized public transport is available. There is an urgent need to provide a suitable public transport system addressing the travel demand and pattern.

e. There are no designated terminal facilities for goods vehicles from where items brought from outside the town are transported to the local sites in smaller vehicles.

f. About 89% of the passenger trips are intra-city in nature i.e. interact or have trip ends within Gangtok city. Only 11% is through traffic. The average trip ranges between 8 – 10kms, which shows the interdependence of surrounding areas on Gangtok. Out of the total vehicular trips intercepted at the selected locations in and around the city, 38% of the trips were made for work, 15% for education, 17% for shopping and remaining 30% for other purposes. Of the total goods vehicles intercepted at Gangtok city limits, 66% of LCVs / Tempos and 75% of two and three axle trucks have both the origin and destination within Gangtok city. The goods traffic desire pattern reveals that 63% of the trips are to Gangtok. *

g. Interaction of Gangtok with other settlements is observed to be high. On an average day, about 30,000 vehicles enter and exit Gangtok. The maximum volume of traffic is between Indira bypass and Metro Point (55,174 PCU) while the volume between Zero point and Metro point is quite high (approx. 36,500 PCU) Of the total trips, about 74% generated, 64% of the trips are attracted by Gangtok city itself. This clearly presents Gangtok as a major consumption and distribution center in the state of Sikkim. *

Vehicle Population

The following table depicts the vehicle population in Gangtok. During the last 5 years, the registered vehicle population has increased over 80%.

YEAR 2 WHEELER LMV / PVT TAXI TRUCKS BUS JCB TOTAL
2001-02 236 771 743 267 193 03 2213
2002-03 219 765 1176 311 10 03 2484
2003-04 241 1084 1517 325 12 05 3184
2004-05 217 1226 2010 219 23 04 3699
2005-06 267 1303 2165 232 01 09 3977

Decongest the Traffic Situation in Gangtok

Strategy / Scenario

Using Namnang as an alternative vehicular route by providing adequate footpath area and widening the road and making use of every available area. The widening of the road would be possible by covering the drain suitably.

Strategy – 1 | Govt. Vehicles required to use Namnang during Rush hour

All Government vehicles driving to Gangtok every morning reaching the Secretariat, the Assembly, Power Secretariat, the Engineering Offices at Balwakhani would be required to take this route so the National Highway would be left for taxis filled with commuters and people coming from out of town.

There is a large population of commuters who come to Gangtok from below Deorali – Syari, Dara Gaon, Tadong, Samdur and further on to Ranipul. If all this traffic was channeled through Namnang, there would be substantial decrease in the load on the National Highway.

Strategy – 2 | Parking along the Road

The entire stretch of Namnang at certain times of the day could become a one-way street – namely one way uphill during the peak office hours and downhill during the time when people return from work. At these times, the area of the road that is not used to drive on could be occupied and used as parking areas. It would provide an area of 1160 ft of continuous parking – if we were to assume 30% of the area unusable because of the unfavorable conditions, it would still leave 812 ft of parking area available which could easily park over 100 cars. People could leave the cars there and take the footpath to where they would want to go or use public transport.

Advantages

The traffic load on the national highway can be greatly reduced thereby decongesting the other bottlenecks at Denzong / Lal Bazar, the Hospital Point, Development area and Zero Point.

There is an extreme dearth of parking in Gangtok urban areas. This parking would make it possible for people to leave cars there and decongest the center of town with fewer cars that would be looking for parking space.

This increased activity along the Namnang road would further spawn a different form of urbanity and urbanism – one that would be more organic and natural in its form and growth. It would give rise to varied forms of programmatic content and enrich as well as enliven the footpath.

Urban Pedestrian Network in Gangtok

There is a footpath that begins at Zero-point and bifurcates – one leads towards the Secretariat and the other follows the National Highway all the way to Ranipul. Since the National Highway is the primary spine that feeds all of Gangtok and almost all the secondary and tertiary roads branch out of this Highway, it is necessarily the most important road in the region.

There are footbridges at congested junctions – the Hospital and Metro-point that provide continuity and an uninterrupted flow of the pedestrians along the National Highway and over it.

These footbridges lead to MG Marg, which has recently been completely pedestrianised. MG Marg is the most important commercial hub of Gangtok where most of Gangtok shops. There is a variety of shops ranging from Beauty parlors, tailors, hardware stores, liquor stores, bars and restaurants, hotels and all types of shops.

MG Marg leads on to New Market, which has been partially pedestrianised where the vehicular movement has been permitted to occupy half the width of the road and the other half has been left for the pedestrians.

The continuity of this pedestrian stream comes to an abrupt halt and there is an awkward moment where suddenly at the end of the street, there is no designated area for the pedestrian.

It is at this point where the footpath at Namnang becomes especially important. It is the missing link that will connect the pedestrian coming from Zero point and bifurcating to MG Marg to meet the National Highway again via MG Marg, New Market, and Namnang ending at Deorali. In this way, the continuity of the pedestrian path is retained as well as creating a continuous circuit starting at Metro Point, through MG Marg, New Market, Namnang and down to Deorali and come up along the National Highway to Metro point again.

Advantages

Tourists would be able to leisurely stroll along MG Marg and New Market and take an uninterrupted walk along a covered footpath offering amazing views of the valley across downhill to Deorali looking towards the Eastern part of Gangtok – Bhusuk, Pakyong and from there they can come gradually uphill overlooking Ranka, Pangthang and watch the Khangchendzonga range grow larger as they make their way up to Metro Point.

People who take walks in the morning can take advantage of the circuit and not have to retrace their path.

Outline Related Issues

This segment is part of ‘Emerging Issues through Stakeholder’s Meeting’ where a number of constructive suggestions were made for incorporation for the CDP prepared by Shristi Urban Infrastructure Development Ltd. It has been included here because if the pertinent issues that were raised in the meeting and their relevance to the footpath at Namnang.

Transportation

There is an immediate requirement to reduce vehicular congestion.

The number of taxis need to be reduced / curtailed and a more effective method of public transport needs to be adopted.

Buses and taxi terminals need to be relocated in order to reduce the congestion.

The city will need to be properly planned and zoned whereby there are definite land use patterns that are adopted thus making is less necessary for people to commute to Gangtok everyday.

Physical Sprawl

The rural population will need to be provided with Urban Amenities so as to decelerate migration to Gangtok – hence decrease congestion.

The State Government may be relocated in the periphery of the city rather than concentrate them within the city’s urban core. The existing offices could be used for business development.

There should be more open spaces, parks and gardens in the city along with other public amenities such as public toilets and street furniture in the city.

Part of the Forest area could be reclaimed by the Government for Public use for the building of parks and gardens.

Commercial Activities along the highway should be promoted.

Housing for the people should be more organized and better planned. Proper zoning of Residential and Commercial areas has to be done.

Schools, amusement parks, health service facilities etc. are integral to the development plan.

Environmental Issues

The carrying capacity of the city and the topography of the land should be assessed.

Development of Gangtok should show concern for the ecology of the city.

Recycling of water from Jhoras could be an option for the future.

Rainwater harvesting should be made mandatory.

Environmental Issues should be addressed to ensure healthy and sustainable growth.

A disaster management plan may be put in place to avoid landslips and drainage problems.

Tourism Issues

Tourism could be expanded to other parts of the state and necessary logistics created to help in income generation and creation of employment opportunities across the state.

In order to boost tourism, the destinations may be clarly defined and synergy built between these locations.

Other Misc. Issues

An urban arts commission needs to be established for the aesthetics of the city.

The program once implemented should improve the quality of life of the people.

Data Limitation

The assessment of existing infrastructure and services, and projections of infrastructure requirements are based on secondary data. This data is collected from a variety of sources and over a period of time, hence each source of data has its limitation.

The project cost estimated and presented are based on preliminary assessment of base engineering cost excluding land cost and would need to be ascertained.

Tourism Development Potential

From all the potentials that the footpath at Namnang has to offer, perhaps the most important one would be that of the development of Tourism in the location, Gangtok and Sikkim in general. MG Marg is already a hotspot for tourists that visit the city and, the development of the footpath can be seen as an extension of that. It could serve to take tourists to Deorali in the continuous pedestrian path and leave them with the option of taking the ropeway back to MG Marg or come back up the National Highway.

There are different ways in which this tourism potential can be tapped. We have identified the most important ones, which would have relevance to this project.

Potential for Viewpoints along the footpath

The footpath is a linear progression that takes a person from point A to B – namely uphill or downhill depending on the direction. This continuous linear form is located overlooking spectacular views and this is perhaps the most important reason why it would be necessary to pause the flow at certain critical locations and provide areas for the pedestrians to stop, take a breath, admire the landscape and take a moment to take in the beauty all around them.

These viewpoints are extensions of the same footpath and are located at certain critical locations from where the view is not obscured by the vegetation – consisting of tall pine trees and other bushes. It is also conceived in locations where there is physical area available in order to expand the footpath and make space for a gathering and a place for people to stop, perhaps sit and take some time to look across the hill. Tourists taking a leisurely walk can stop by and take photographs. It would even be possible for people to carry a picnic with them and sit there and take in the landscape while eating lunch.

There is also the possibility of parking two wheelers and cars along these viewpoint areas as well as the potential for planting and gardens. At certain areas, there is the potential for a much for elaborate programmatic evolution, which will be explained in the course of the report.

Skywalk

Namnang is located in an extremely steep cliff that rises sharply above Deorali and makes its way to Gangtok. It has a very steep gradient and the adjacent landscape – above and below the road is also equally steep.

There are certain adventure seekers and people who get a thrill out of looking down from very high up. There are examples in the Sears Towers in Chicago and the very latest example of this could be found at the Skywalk in the Grand Canyon.

The location at Namnang is ideal for such a situation because of the extreme height that it is situated on. The view that is provided would enthrall a person viewing from the footpath looking down – the steep cliff would guarantee a thrilling experience.

In order to enhance this thrilling experience, it is proposed that at certain locations along the footpath, a critically identified areas, a part of the precast concrete flooring checkered MS tile is replaced by 1” to 2” thick clear floor glass. This glass would be located in such a manner that a person walking on this would get a view directly into the valley as if he or she would be floating on air.

There would be an opaque portion of the footpath adjacent to the glass for the more nervous pedestrian but, this skywalk attempt to provide a continuous and seamless experience of the valley and gorge by making people walk on the glass floor.

There is a product description of this glass at the end of this report – in order to read the technical specifications and manufacturing company.

Potential for a linear garden along the footpath

Along the footpath, especially in the areas where the viewpoints are to be located, there is the potential to develop a garden. This would be in the form of planters that would form part of the landscaping of the viewpoint as well as enhance the beauty of the landscape all around.

This idea of landscaping the viewpoints with these planters can be taken a step further and something like a linear garden can be conceived along the entire stretch of the footpath. There could be certain landscaping themes that run through the length of the footpath – with certain flowers and landscape elements. These can begin in either the first or the last location and carry on through the footpath area and end where the footpath ends.

At viewpoints, they could be landscaped as planters and along the footpath, the landscaping could be done as additions on the MS columns or along the railings so, all through the year, the footpath would bear a very festive look that would be part of a larger landscaping concept plan.

Heritage walk in Namnang

There is an acute dearth of cultural institutions in Gangtok as well as spaces dedicated for the public. This void has been filled partly by the pedestrianization of MG Marg but, it is not enough and there needs to be more done in order to address the need for public space.

There is a unique potential that a location like Namnang offers. There are stunning views across the valley towards Bhusuk and Pakyong, down to the river. Along with this walk and the view, one can develop this footpath into a heritage walk whereby there could be certain heritage elements along the way, which could create this heritage feeling.

The architecture and articulation of the walkway would be primarily contemporary in the materials and forms that it would use – namely steel structure, poly carbonate sheets or pre-coated sheets, precast floors and the like. The forms that are used and the articulation of these forms would be something that would draw references to the traditional architecture of Sikkim for imagery, form, color schemes and added elements in order to create an ambience and an atmosphere of something that is rooted in its context. These references would be drawn from the important public buildings namely the monasteries in Sikkim.

The proportioning system of the footpath would be based on the proportioning system prevalent in the monasteries – namely, the proportion between the height and the division of the modules, the proportion of the railings and handrail, the slope and angle of the roofs, the proportion of eaves boards and the ratio of the length breadth and height of the volume would have a reference to the monastic architecture.

There would be special elements such as gates and bridges that would be built using contemporary materials but would attempt to replicate the traditional forms and structures. These elements would add to the project and infuse it with a typical Sikkimese character, which would be the highlight of the project and ensure that this architecture is firmly rooted in Sikkim. This project being dealt with in this manner would ensure the cultural heritage of Sikkim is strongly represented.

Signage interpreting the History of Sikkim / Gangtok / Namnang

The history is Sikkim is something that is only found buried in books deep in the archives of the state. In order to develop a more aware citizen, educate the children – the future of the state as well as spread awareness amongst the tourists who visit Sikkim, it is proposed that a linear walk through museum be installed along the footpath

This museum would have exhibits that would be in the form of

Signage – specially designed and constructed items that display information that could be backlit thus providing the capability of being able to be read even at night. This signage would contain text, photographs and sketches depicting the history of the state- the origin of Sikkim and its eventual merger with India.

Totems / Artwork on Display – There could be items from the history of Sikkim – totems, artwork and such items. There could be copies of these made and displayed here for everyone to see and understand the rich culture and heritage and diversity amongst the people of Sikkim. This display would be located at the viewpoints where people would stop and take a moment to admire the landscape as well as be exposed to a culturally enriching experience.

This would be particularly interesting to the tourists because, it would fill the void for the dearth of a museum in Sikkim. It would not be a formal museum but would serve as an informal manner in which certain relevant information gets across to the visitors.

Potential to develop kiosks / hawkers for Tourists

There could be areas designated for some informal small scale hawking, pedaling and kiosks in the stretch of the footpath.

Usually this form of commercial activity is something that grows organically and is sometimes treated with a certain degree of disdain and frowned upon. They are treated as parasitical and a public nuisance.

Street vendors that usually sell tourist paraphernalia, food and snack items along with drinks actually go to enliven a place and infuse it with character. There are instances when places develop an urban character and are bustling with activity only because of vendors such as the ones mentioned above.

It can be controlled and there could be small kiosks selling Tourist paraphernalia can be located along the path. These kiosks can be located at the viewpoints and also serve as information booths whereby tourists can get more information about Sikkim, Gangtok and particularly Namnang.

Hawkers selling Momos, and other traditional items from the Sikkimese cuisine etc can be given some area to enliven the footpath. There can be a number of Hawkers in certain locations that would serve food items as well as cold drinks to the people taking a leisurely walk along the stretch of the footpath.

Identifying Specific Locations along the Stretch

Location A 

At the hairpin bend. This will be one of the terminal points of the Walkway. 

Location B

A little further away, the topography is not as steep and is identified as an important location for the construction of some larger infrastructure.

Location C

This section is defined by a steep fall with amazing view of the hills and valley beyond.

Location D

A slightly wider section of the road will permit the addition of a viewpoint or some related infrastructure.

Location E

At the bottom of the road and connecting with the National Highway.

Project Background

The project for the footpath at Namnang was conceived with the following points in mind:

a. The need to reduce the congestion in Gangtok and the need to address the problems that is a faced by the town by having only a single road as the spine around which it is planned.

b. The need to provide a designated footpath / pavement for the pedestrians who use this road to reach Gangtok from Deorali and vice versa.

c. This footpath would be cantilevered from the road so that the road width is not affected.

d. There is a sharp fall downhill from the road towards the valley. It is a very dangerous situation, which has caused a number of fatal accidents. By the introduction of the footpath, it would serve as a buffer so that even if a vehicle would swerve out of control there would be a con siderable barrier before it could fall down the cliff.

e. In order to capitalize on the remarkable views, it would serve to enhance the tourism industry in Sikkim and Gangtok.

Environmental Assesment

The environment plays an important role in the structural stability of the footpath at Namnang because of a number of different reasons:

a. The sharp gradient makes it an environmentally vulnerable area.

b. The narrow road makes it necessary for the footpath to be cantilevered in an unconventional manner which would require a detailed analysis on the potential to cantilever the footpath.

c. The structural supports would need to be grounded in an area of a high soil bearing capacity so that there is minimum effort in ensuring the structural stability.

The above map from the Mines and Geology department shows the relative stability in the Gangtok urban areas and its surroundins areas. It is a generalized map showing what areas are more stable than others thereby implying the soil bearing capacity increase and decrease.

It shows that Namnang is is in the most stable zone which would mean that the sheer cliffs and steep incline is primariy comprised of rocks and boulders.

Project Scope

The scope of the project would be based on the project requirement as well as the area available and the topography of the site. The programmatic scope could be summarized as:

A. Footpath

a. Cantilevered footpath with a roof to make it weatherproof.

b. The support system for the cantilevered footpath would be based on the site but it would comprise of a RCC foundation on which there would be a gusset plate one which there will be a tubular steel structural support that is bolted.

B. Bridge

a. A bridge that would bring the pedestrians from the upper road to the footpath at the lower road at the hairpin bend. This bridge will be across the road.

b. A staircase supported from the ground that connects the bridge to the start of the footpath.

C. Cafeteria / Restaurant and Service facilities

a. A cafeteria/ restaurant for tourists that use the footpath.

b. A kitchen for the restaurant.

c. A bar.

d. Bathroom facilities for pedestrians and tourists.

e. Storage facilities for maintenance.

f. A caretaker’s room.

D. Skywalk

a. A portion of the footpath is removed and replaced with glass so the pedestrian gets the thrill of looking down into the gorge and get a feeling of weightlessness.

E. Viewpoint

a. At certain areas along the footpath, it widens to create space for people to view the landscape.

b. Benches for the pedestrians to sit and enjoy the landscape.

F. Terraces

a. Landscaped terraces, which would serve as public space at the beginning of the footpath at Deorali.

b. A gateway, which would frame the landscape as well as carry with it the information about the project – Inaugurated by and when etc.

c. Benches at the terraces.

G. Miscellaneous Items

a. Planters and planting – part of the landscape plans which are created typically thought the stretch of the footpath.

b. Trash cans.

c. Signage interpreting the history of Sikkim as well as providing information about the state – designed tastefully and aesthetically.

d. Footpath and road lighting.

 

 

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