It has now been reported that the planning area of the catchments of the Upper Lake will be separately determined – presumably separate from the planned area of Bhopal town.
This decision has come after rampant construction in the area which apparently is continuing without any let or hindrance. Reports indicate that for this purpose the government has now decided to exhume the report of the Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology (CEPT) of Ahmedabad which has been gathering dust somewhere in the Mantralaya.
It may be recalled, for the present the City Plan that is current is of 1995 vintage. A fresh one was due in 2005. The one that was prepared was hooted out of reckoning by the people so much so that it had to be withdrawn. Rumours have it that it was prepared to suit the builders’ lobby. Since there has been continuing void in so far planning of the city is concerned whether the current expansion is as per plan or just ad hoc is not quite known. One does not know whether new constructions are coming up on lands that should have been built upon under the 1995 Plan or are being constructed on the basis of ad hoc allotments of land parcels or without any permission.
Then, of course, there was that fiasco of CEPT that was engaged by the Government for recommending ways and means for conservation of the Upper Lake. The CEPT, as has been its wont, made a thorough study and submitted its recommendations. The government sat on it and now, it seems, it has been sitting on it for more than four years. The recommendations were never made public. Some organizations that work for amelioration of civic life of the town sought the report from the government or asked it to make it public. On being denied the report, they went to the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to force a decision to make the report public and yet nothing happened. The NGT seemed too soft. It got a copy of the report but did not share it with the public.
One does not know what was in the report that got the government’s goat. No wonder rumours floated around. It was said that while there were government plans to build a world class cricket stadium in the catchment of the Lake. Besides, it was also said that the government, under the influence of the builders’ lobby, wanted to unlock the value of the precious land. Some rumours were heard that the government even disputed the existence of the catchments of the Lake. The CEPT seems to have mentioned in its report quite the opposite – the sanctity of the catchments should be respected. There should be no heavy multistoried construction in the area. That seemingly put paid to all the plans of the government. It didn’t like the recommendation one bit and a few crores spent on the study were allowed to go down the drain. As the place is a gold mine for the government it thought it best to let the matters lie for being taken up at a more convenient time and convenient environment.
Perhaps, the time has since arrived. Rapid fire decisions are being taken in anticipation of the next state assembly elections. These are mostly to garner votes. But to garner cash something more defining needs to be done. What could be more attractive than hundreds of acres of land close to Bhopal? Be it in the catchments of the Upper Lake, supposedly the life line of the city. So what? Elections need to be won regardless of the consequences for the city in the future - to be dealt with when one comes up against that future, dreaded or otherwise.
This time the wind, reportedly, is blowing not quite favourably for the government. So, one should expect very reckless decisions in regard to the use of the catchments of the Upper Lake. A world class cricket stadium will be hugely popular with the generally unthinking youth for whom rest and relaxation is be all and end all. The Upper Lake itself is being choked from all sides; what great harm will be done to it if its catchments are knocked off when the government and the ruling party can make millions by a few strokes of pen?