Gairsain, a small town in Chamoli district of Garhwal hills, is buzzing with activity.
The Uttarakhand government’s decision to hold the winter assembly session from November 2 in the remote region of the state has kindled hope among residents that Gairsain may ultimately become the permanent capital or at least the summer capital of the state.
“Gairsain is both safe and unsafe like any other Himalayan region then why raise unnecessary concerns on its feasibility,” says Pritam Singh Panwar, state urban development minister.
Panwar, who belongs to the Uttarakhand Kranti Dal, an ally of the Harish Rawat-led Congress government, has been demanding that Garsain, located between the plains of Kumaon and hills Garhwal, be made the state capital.
The state government has already spent `65 crore on constructing the Vidhansabha — the state secretariat building — and a hostel for lawmakers at Gairsain. But the question arises how a small town with a population of less than 10,000 handle the pressures of a being a state capital.
The one-member justice Virender Dixit Commission —which was set up in 2001, three months after the creation of the state to identify a permanent capital for Uttarakhand — had hired the Delhi-based School of Planning & Architecture, to carry out a feasibility study.
Several parameters were taken into consideration for the proposed capital, including accessibility to the town by road and air, weather and geographic conditions, available infrastructure facilities among others.
Based on the study, the commission in its report had noted that the interim capital — Dehradun — is a more suitable place as the permanent capital owing to the factors like its distance from national capital, centralised population and safety from natural calamities.
Besides, the School of Planning & Architecture, the state government has not commissioned any other feasibility study for Gairsain, which lies on the zone V of the seismic plate.
Two independent experts — Emmanuelle Pedeutour, a French town planner and Ashok Bhairi, an Ahmedabad-based urban designer — who carried out an independent feasibility study of Dehradun, Gairsain and few other towns in 2005, say that urbanisation takes a toll on resources of water, land, vegetation and entire ecology.
The sensitive regions of Himalayas are prone to various natural calamities like landslides, and earthquakes.
In order to minimise the impact on the environment, the density pattern of the settlements and the ecological foot print has to be controlled from further decay. Therefore, the design of the region capital has to address these issues carefully, the study says.
A report of an expert committee of Union home ministry formed in March last year to study on the capital of bifurcated Andhra Pradesh, while mentioning about Uttarakhand said that temporary arrangements should not become a “fait accompli” for the permanent location.
The issue of choosing a capital for the state is politically very sensitive, as Dehradun continues to be the interim capital. With 14 months remaining for the state to go to polls, the Congress government hopes to cash in on Gairsain sentiments.
Out of the 70 assembly segments in state, 34 are in the nine hill districts while the remaining 36 are in the four plain districts — Dehradun, Udham Sing Nagar, Nainital and Haridwar.
More than 100 acres of land has been acquired in Bhrarisen which is close to Gairsain to build the Vidhansabha building. The National Building Corporation has been entrusted with the project.
“Let me assure there will be no dearth of funds for Gairsain,” says Panwar.