In a campaign that brought back memories of the famed Chipko Andolan in Uttarakhand hills in the 1970s, over 400 locals embraced trees in the Harbanswala tea estate here to register their protest against the proposed establishment of the smart city in the area. The campaign was jointly organised by locals and members of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
Residents living in and near the tea estate as well as AAP members hugged the trees and tied the ‘raksha sutra’ (sacred thread) on them in a symbolic protest against the proposed acquisition of tea plantation land for setting up the smart city. With some prominent members of the city’s civil society in attendance, the protestors also sang jangeet (songs) and raised slogans to protect the city’s environment.
Earlier, the state government had announced its decision to develop a satellite city on the outskirts of Dehradun by acquiring over 320 acres of tea estate land. The decision has triggered a series of heated protests ever since from environmentalists, activists and political parties who have questioned the choice of a “green area” for setting up the smart city.
In the 1970s, locals in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand (then a part of Uttar Pradesh) had stirred a forest conservation movement by clinging to trees that were proposed to be cut down for developmental projects. The movement brought the hitherto non-descript hill region in the national spotlight.
“The locals of tea estate land said that they do not want smart city to come up on the tea estate land and will not let even a single tree be axed for the purpose. In fact, as per our own surveys, most of the city residents do not want the smart city to come up on the tea estate land and rather want the existing city to be made ‘smart’ under the (central government’s scheme),” said AAP leader Anoop Nautiyal who led the protestors.