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Friday, July 1, 2016

Bhopal Notes :: 33 :: Perfidious administration

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A welcome at best hypocritical
With great difficulty an empowered committee was created for conservation and development of the Upper Lake Bhopal. But this was so unwieldy that it has been able to meet only once though, surprisingly, the Mayor is at its head. It met only once when it appointed the Centre for Environmental Planning and Environment (CEPT), Ahmedabad, to prepare a plan for conservation and development of the Upper Lake. CEPT after showing enormous diligence submitted its report to the Mayor in 2013. That was the last one heard of it. For three years neither the Mayor and his Empowered Committee nor the government took any initiative to consider and to make it public. Eventually at the instance of te Bhopal Citizens’ Forum the National Green Tribunal moved in the matter and obtained a copy. The government all the time has been shamelessly claiming that it was “studying” the report, an inordinately long time with hundreds of minions at its disposal to study what is understood to be an explicit and unequivocal report. 

Quite clearly, the report does not seem to coincide with its plans for conservation and development of the Lake. Its intentions have more to do with development and minimal with conservation. Development would entail construction and that would bring in the benefits for the construction lobby and the politicians as also some smaller fries for whom some crumbs will be left for them to lap up. So, for the present, the CEPT report has been put in the freezer.

Rumours have, however, been afloat how the government, in association with the Municipal Corporation, has been abusing the sanctity of the catchments of the Upper Lake. While it is a well known fact that the Chirayu Hospital with its accompanying medical college were allowed to be constructed and established in clear violation of the prevailing norms conservation of wetlands, low density constructions have been allowed at Phanda that falls in the catchment area. After all, a big builder was involved. A rumour was also doing the rounds that an international standard cricket stadium is to be constructed in the village Barkheda Nathu that falls plumb in the catchment area.

The authorities who take to such ill-advised courses seem to be oblivious of the chutzpah of the people in the media. They can always dig up the information even if the same is buried deep somewhere in a cold-storage. Precisely that is what the People’s Samachar reporter apparently did the other day (27th June). He came out with a report indicating the reasons for not making the CEPT report public. Obviously CEPT had recommended that to save the Lake there should be no construction in its catchment area. Even doing away with the low-density development in the catchment area is also one of the recommendations of CEPT. It also said farm houses too should not be allowed.

If the government agrees to all these recommendations it would be putting itself to numerous difficulties. It has all the time carelessly allowed constructions in the catchments of the Lake thumbing its nose at the environmentalists. Besides, its proposed projects in Bhouri – Bakania are going to suffer from serious implications. These may have to be wound up. Not only that what happens to numerous low-rise constructions like those of Aakriti which has a nature-cure outfit in Phanda and a housing project named Aakriti Highlands?

 Instead of landing in such serious difficulties the authorities thought it best to sit tight on the CEPT report. After all, crores of rupees worth of projects were allowed and hence so much is at stake. Many must have made millions in the process. Nobody is going to let go of all those goodies. While the administration sits heavily on the CEPT report, it seems, more constructions are being allowed to make everything look like fait accompli on a later date when things happen to come to a crunch.

The government, ably supported by the Bhopal Municipal Corporation, is playing out this perfidious game with the people of the city. On the one hand it, including the Chief Minster, has been professing their commitment towards “conservation and development” of the Lake on the other they have prepared a divergently (anti-)project to kill it for the benefit of construction and builders’ lobbies and their collaborators. If the catchment is destroyed it wouldn’t be long before the Lake too disappears presenting to the real estate people prime land to exploit in the heart of the city.

 It is, therefore, time this treachery with the people of the city is exposed. There is a need for a concerted effort to have the CEPT report made public to enable the people to know the truth instead of depending on scraps of information that periodically appear in the local press.


1st July, 2016
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