Environmentalists and the opposition in Bhopal believe the NDA government’s flagship Smart City project is a plot to hand over prime land to private builders who will rob the city of its green cover, affecting the health and welfare of the people.
Congress party workers, local residents and environmentalists have intensified protests against the redevelopment of the 359-acre land in Shivaji Nagar and Tulsi Nagar, even as the urban development department expedited the completion of formalities to prepare the area for vertical development.
“We are not opposing the smart city project, but to develop an area which already has all kinds of basic facilities is meaningless. The Bhopal Municipal Corporation (BMC) shouldn’t affect the green cover of the capital in the name of development. This is also a high security zone...the government shouldn’t hand over the land to private builders,” said former IAS officer Moti Singh.
Under the re-densification plan of the Smart Cities project, `3,000 crore has been earmarked for the redevelopment of the land in Shivaji Nagar and Tulsi Nagar. And, in its effort to woo private developers, the government is allegedly transferring land at throwaway prices.
“This is a conspiracy of the government to hand over the land. If they really want development of the city, they should have chosen a barren land which is available in Bhopal,” said Amit Sharma, a Congress corporator.
“We will move court against this decision,” he added.
Environmentalists, on the other hand, believe the redevelopment plan under the Smart Cities scheme was more of a problem than a solution, and that the opinion of the people was being ignored by the government.
“Bhopal is facing multiple civic problems but instead of solving them, the BMC is focusing on the land deal. The BMC is making tall claims that it has taken public opinion but as far as I know, they didn’t ask the people about cutting down lakhs of trees,” said Abdul Jabbar.
Refuting the allegation, however, CU Roy, Smart Cities project in-charge and joint director of the urban development department, said thousands of people had submitted their suggestions and opinions on the plan, and any concerns should have been raised prior to final approval.
“The proposal will not be changed at any cost. We have followed all the guidelines of the Union government to form a proposal, so nobody can question it,” he said.
Environmentalist Subhash Pandey said to cut down lakhs of trees for a smart city will spoil the entire biodiversity of the capital and also cause health ailments like bronchitis.
He said the redevelopment plan under the project at Tulsi Nagar and Shivaji Nagar areas will be a wrong decision as the area has the maximum number of trees and the demolition of houses and felling down of trees will disturb the ecosystem of birds and small animals that live in the area.
Pandey said small bushes and plants cannot replace big trees - oxygen levels will also decrease in the area and affect the health of the local residents.