Environmental sustainability should certainly be the centrepiece of any development project. For eco-sensitive projects Indian government rules make it compulsory to have environmental clearance.
Under international treaty conventions or local laws, green norms are defined and implemented. Not only the government, but also non-governmental organisations (NGOs) keep a close watch on development projects.
Many NGOs and green activists think that turning Dehradun into a Smart City will be a disaster in the making. They assert that state governments are still going ahead with policy making ignoring the lessons learnt from the devastating floods in Chennai. Critics say that In view of the 2013 Uttarakhand floods, the proposed Dehradun Smart City proposal should be studied thoroughly.
The green brigade says ordinary people may get enamoured by claims that Smart Cities would mean shanties getting a makeover and there will be seamless connectivity that promises unheard and unseen efficiencies in the delivery of basic civic services.
NGOs claim such images being touted are false and point to the devastation that the Himalayan state went through. They assert that it was a man-made disaster because of indiscriminate and unplanned development.
The “once upon a time” quaint and quiet city of Dehradun is alleged to have become encroachers’ paradise and commercial land-grabbers. NGOs fear the acquisition of close to 2,000 acres of tea estate – an area roughly 3km by 3km with rich bio-diversity – for the Smart City will destabilise the ecosystem.
They also suspect that the Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) with universities from China with apparently no urban experience in India are being provided large equity stake in special purpose vehicles that are being created in partnership with the state government.
The only way the government can win the confidence of the people in such vulnerable areas is to assure them that Smart Cities would not disturb the ecosystem and the proposal would be taken forward only after instilling confidence among the people about environmental sustainability as an integral issue in developing Smart Cities. The government has a long way to go in accomplishing such objectives.