Over a dozen citizens’ organisations and social and environmental groups came under a single umbrella here on Thursday to reiterate their pledge for making Dehradun a smart city but not at the cost of its heritage tea gardens.
Members of the informal and apolitical grouping titled Citizens’ Initiative said they were confident that Doon can be turned into a smart city with the help of an “exceptionally sound, inclusive and citizen-centric model”, instead of the government’s current “enviromentally-destructive” plan of making a smart city on the tea garden land.
Some members of the collective even threatened “not to vote for the current state government” – referring to the ruling Congress – if it did not listen to the voice of the residents. They also warned of a “legal battle” if the government did not reconsider its plan of establishing an “unnecessary concrete creation” on the city’s outskirts.
Dehradun landed at the bottom of the list of 97 entries with less than 40 marks in a recent competition where top 20 cities were chosen by the Union ministry of urban development for the first phase of the smart city project.
Veteran journalist Raj Kanwar, who has been living in Doon for over 70 years, said that hearts of most of the old-timers ache to see the unplanned urbanization in the city over the decades. “We are a completely non-political body but we promise not to vote for this government if it continues to try creating a smart city on the outskirts, instead of including problems of the existing city in the (smart city) proposal,” Kanwar said.
Retired senior bureaucrat SS Pangtey, who is supporting the Citizens’ Initiative, said the collective might even go to the extent of “taking legal action if the government did not scrap its tea garden plan”.
Calling the state government’s plan of creating a smart city on the tea garden land an “environmental travesty”, Florence Pandhi, secretary of the Friends of the Doon Society, said, “What Doon needs right now is freedom from over-construction, crumbling infrastructure, lack of water supply, sewerage network and poor solid waste management and crowded/broken roads.”
She also alleged that the citizen groups were not consulted in the planning process while preparing the smart city proposal.
Coordinator of the Citizens’ Initiative and president of All India Consumers Council Brig (retd) KG Behl said the Citizens’ Initiative will release a ‘Dehradun Declaration’ on Friday at the Gandhi Park to draw public support for their cause. “We want the government to seriously reconsider its greenfield plan (decision to make a satellite city on tea garden land) and adopt retrofitting or redevelopment option for its future bid,” he said.