In a relief to the more than 50,000 residents of Shivaji Nagar and Tulsi Nagar, chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan announced on Monday that the smart city project would be moved to North TT Nagar.
The CM’s announcement came after a meeting with authorities, including chief secretary Anthony deSa and Bhopal mayor Alok Sharma.
“Honouring sentiments of the people, chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has decided that the smart city project will now be developed in North TT Nagar,” said an official release. “Given the greenery in Shivaji Nagar... it didn’t look wise to raise high-rise buildings in the area. Hence, the smart city will be developed on a 280 hectare vacant land in North TT Nagar.”
Residents and environmentalists had protested against the selection of the two localities over the project’s possible impact on the environment. There was also resentment among public representatives from the ruling party as well, because they were not taken into confidence prior to the selection.
Higher education minister Umashankar Gupta was among those whose political aspirations might have been affected by the proposed displacement of residents from the area. He met the chief minister on Monday morning along with city mayor Alok Sharma and expressed concern over the selection of the two localities.
Alok Sharma’s image too took a beating as he was in the forefront of getting the city selected for the smart city project. “I had already said that the selection of the two localities was not final,” he said. “I am thankful to the chief minister that he listened to us and took the decision.”
Former chief secretary and convener of the National Centre for Human Settlement and Environment (NCHSE), Nirmala Buch, who spearheaded the campaign against the selection, said the project would do immense damage to the environment as the area was considered the “lungs of the city” and 27,000-30,000 trees would have to be felled to clear the 332 acre area required for the smart city project.
“I am happy that chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has taken this pro-people and pro-environment step. Our delegation had met the CM and he assured that he would look into our demands,” Buch told HT.
Another activist, Ajay Dubey, demanded that the bureaucrats who selected the two localities without consulting the people through “fake voting” should be held accountable. “It’s because of their action that the government had to face embarrassment and had to make a U-turn on the selection of the area,” he said.
Senior journalist Dinesh Gupta, a resident of Tulsi Nagar, said some officers who lived in Chandigarh dreamed of creating another Chandigarh in Bhopal. They handed over prime land at the cost of the environment to builders who had their eyes of the land on Link Road No 1 and 2 for a long time, he added.
The localities already meet most of the norms of a smart city and it could be improved further with the investment of a few crores, he said.