Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal’s declaration of converting Amritsar into a world-class tourist destination has drawn flak from residents, activists and environmentalists, who said the government was ignoring the real issues.
They said that while issues such as shortage of potable water, deforestation and power crunch had not been addressed by the SAD-BJP government, major projects such as the pods project and the conservation of Gobindgarh Fort were yet to be completed.
“The city needs a solution to its power woes, not more malls,” Bibi Inderjit Kaur, president of All India Pingalwara Charitable Society (AIPCS) said. “A shopping mall consumes as much electricity as a village.”
“Our water resources are depleting fast, forest cover too is disappearing,” she said. “We need to harvest rainwater, but this has not been implemented seriously; it should be made compulsory.”
Residents pointed out that the flyover at Kitchlew Chowk when complete would pose a risk to the environment.
PS Bhatti, president of Missionaries Khudai Khidmatgaran, said: “The proposal to axe trees to pave way for the flyover at Kitchlew Chowk was deplorable. Instead of felling a large number of trees, the district administration should ensure that only those trees whose roots threaten to harm the weight bearing pillars of the flyover, be removed to minimise damage to the environment.”
The delay in the magnetic pods project and the city bus service has also irked residents.
However, Bibi Kiranjot Kaur, member of Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), hailed Sukhbir’s tourism plan “This is a good idea,” she said. “Amritsar also has potential to be promoted as a centre of religious, cultural and historical tourism.”
MORE TIME NEEDED FOR RESTORATION
Asked about the slow pace of conservation work at Gobindgarh Fort and Company Gardens — associated with Maharaja Ranjit Singh — Kironjot Kaur said, “Such projects do take time.”
Gobindgarh Fort was handed over to the civil administration by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2006. Before the handover the fort used to be manned by the Indian Army. Sources said at the time of the handover, it was agreed that the army would move out gradually and the fort renovated and preserved.
However, as work was proceeding at a snail’s pace, Sukhbir pulled up the officials concerned for the delay.
SS Behal of the architecture department at Guru Nanak Dev University said the pace of work was slow, but consistent.
On the restoration of Company Gardens, municipal commissioner Dharampal Gupta said efforts were being made to speed up work.
“The tourism department is overseeing the work,” he said. “It is a huge project and needs attention. That could be one reason why progress has been slow.”
Apart from this, the magnetic pods project is yet to be completed, while the solid waste management project too has hit a dead end as the company hired by the Amritsar municipal corporation for handling the garbage collection has walked out.
Gupta said the pods project was likely to take off after the constitution and meeting of the new MC House in September.