Criticising the UT Administration for revising its Smart City plan, city-based architects claim that the proposed 71 acres of land for commercial development under Smart City project is deemed forest not available with them so the new outlay plan will not be more than Rs 2,300 crore, instead of Rs 6,500 crore committed in 2016.
Deemed forest is the area which appears to be forest but not notified in the records.
The architects question how the area which was once proposed for commercial development turned into deemed forest.
The revised Smart City outlay plan was sent to the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs in February 2020. Although MIS of Smart City Mission accepted the revised outlay plan, the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban affairs is yet to take any decision. The UT Administration is sending repeated communications to the ministry.
Architect Shilpa Das, founding member of ACT! Chandigarh, a citizen collective working closely with the UT Administration, said, “The development is a huge loss of opportunity to people of Chandigarh. CSCL must work out alternative proposals for development of city. There are many issues that need attention like development of Leisure Valley which is of crucial ecological, cultural and tourism importance. The development of this axis will connect Chandigarh from south side to north, which can have a good impact on tourism too. Also, the ideas that promote community in sectors can be implemented pan-city. The continuance of movement for pedestrian/cyclist is another issue. The remaining budget can be used at these fronts.”
Chandigarh Smart City Ltd (CSCL) CEO K K Yadav, said, “We only withdrew the plan of commercial development of 71 acres in Sector 43 along with Vikas Marg as the land was found to be deemed forest. Indeed, it should had been identified earlier when it was selected by a hired consultant for commercial development in 2016. But it was all before my tenure. I examined the area. Subsequently, UT forest department staked its claim on the huge chunk of land covered with tall trees declaring it as deemed forest. If we undertake the forest land for commercial development, then we will have to return the equal quantity of land to the forest department. And there is no such huge chunk of land available in Chandigarh. We prefer to drop the commercial development in Sector 43.”
Rajnish Wattas, former principal of Chandigarh College of Architecture, said, “How can a particular area, which was once selected for commercial development, turned into deemed forest? It requires thorough consideration.”
The commercial development was proposed to be held on the basis of public-private partnership (PPP) model. General Manager, CSCL, N P Sharma said, “Indeed, we proposed to reduce the Smart City outlay budget. Rs 2,300 crore from Rs 6,500 crore but we have not closed our option of selecting the sites for commercial development on PPP model in Chandigarh. We assured the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs that appropriate sites will be identified for commercial development in the future.”
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