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‘Unrealistic’ ideas in smart city plan submitted for Doon, claim activists

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Uttarakhand may have cleared Dehradun’s smart city proposal for the next round, but local activists have raised their doubts over some “unrealistic” ideas incorporated in the plan. The city’s central areas that have been chosen in the project are already quite congested and executing some of the ideas in the proposal may not be feasible, they said. Dehradun’s smart city proposal was submitted to the Centre on Friday, a day after the state-level high-powered committee cleared it on Thursday following the Dehradun Municipal Corporation (DMC) board’s green signal earlier in the day. Doon’s proposal for the Centre’s flagship project has been rejected three times over the past year.

Activists, who have been closely following the smart city developments ever since its inception, however, questioned the incorporation of some seemingly “impractical ideas” in the proposal. For instance, the plan talks about creating footpaths for pedestrians and green zones in the Paltan Bazaar — one of the most popular markets of Doon. It also enlists prohibition of entry of vehicles in crowded market areas. “Local authorities failed to ensure removal of heavy encroachments from Paltan Bazaar area for the past several years – even despite the intervention of the High Court. The market is already quite congested and it only sounds like a feel-good plan rather than one with any realistic approach,” environmentalist Hemant Nav Kumar of U Turn Foundation said, adding that the plan had barely taken into account the city’s immediate problems at hand.

Similarly, other plans – like rejuvenation of Gandhi Park and construction of parking facilities – have been in pipeline of civic authorities for years now. “What they (authorities) could not achieve in years, they’ve now simply pushed them into the smart city plan to wash their hands off (their responsibility),” said Mahesh Bhandari, the president of Doon Residents’ Welfare Front. A section of activists feared that even if Doon’s proposal was cleared this time, its implementation would be a tall order for the authorities given the current set of challenges faced by the haphazardly growing city. “We sincerely hope that something good comes out of this (smart city proposal). However, many of these points (like parking, footpaths, encroachments) are very basic in nature and should have been dealt with at the local level itself,” said Bharat Sharma of Friends of The Doon Society, an environmental organisation.

He said barring some points, the smart city plan lacked creative or innovative solutions for Doon’s problems. When contacted, Dehradun mayor and Dharampur MLA Vinod Chamoli said the smart city proposal encompasses a “long-term vision” to make the state capital smart in the true sense. “We have even taken suggestions from technical experts and are hoping that we will make through to this round. As for their concerns, we will make sure that they are addressed from time to time,” Chamoli told HT.

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