Dost Bikes

How to not develop a hill station

On a heat November afternoon, as I left the site visitors of Dehradun behind and drove up the hills to Mussoorie, the voice of a presenter on an FM radio station echoed what I had heard from scores of individuals in Uttarakhand’s capital metropolis: “Dehradun is popping into Delhi.”

The remark caught the eye of the driving force, a younger man named Danish Aslam. “The town has modified so much, and never in a great way,” he advised me. “It was the capital of the hills, however now it seems to be identical to some other city within the plains, like Moradabad or Meerut.”

Born and raised in Dehradun, Aslam mentioned he used to take part in biking tournaments in his childhood, which have completely stopped now. “The place do you cycle now? There’s no house to even stroll.”

The octogenarian author Ruskin Bond, who lived in Dehradun within the Nineteen Forties earlier than completely settling in Mussoorie within the Sixties, rued the truth that that each one his favorite childhood haunts within the metropolis had disappeared. “Few stay, just like the peepal tree close to Ghanta Ghar,” he mentioned, referring to the clocktower within the coronary heart of the city.

These weren’t unusual sorts of complaints to listen to from metropolis dwellers in India, but it surely was putting to listen to it fabricated from Dehradun.

As soon as a pristine colonial city dotted with canals and fruit orchards, within the final 20 years, Dehradun has seen an exceptionally intense burst of progress that has left it crowded, polluted and water poor.

“Now the canals have been cemented over, the timber have been lower,” mentioned Anil Joshi, an environmentalist who has lived within the metropolis since Nineteen Eighties. “Is that this the way you develop a metropolis, by destroying its essence?”

Longtime Dehradun residents in addition to authorities officers say that this downslide was accelerated after 2000, when town was declared the capital of the newly shaped Uttarakhand state. This was additionally when town’s growth, in addition to that of the 30-km-long Dehradun-Mussoorie street, and Mussoorie city itself, grew to become the topic of a brand new “grasp plan” that was meant to make sure sustainable long-term progress.

Each main Indian metropolis has a grasp plan: a blueprint of a metropolis’s growth, sometimes laid out for a interval of 20 years.

The thought of such grasp plans was first launched within the Third 5 12 months Plan, drafted within the Sixties by the Planning Fee, the organisation inside the Indian authorities that formulated detailed socioeconomic methods for the nation in the direction of particular targets, till it was disbanded in 2014. The Third 5 12 months Plan, which spanned the years from 1961 to 1966 noticed that there was “a have to undertake the preparation of grasp plans for city areas” and that with out such plans, “there isn’t any technique of bringing collectively and maximising the contribution of various businesses in the direction of well-defined frequent goals pursued systematically over an extended interval.” The doc additionally famous, “The first duty for the preparation of grasp plans lies with State Governments and the native administrations involved.”

Dehradun’s Grasp Plan 2005-2025 lined the a long time quickly after it grew to become a capital metropolis. However it has had a shaky journey, being finalised solely in 2008, then amended in 2013, and not using a new report back to accompany it.

It was round this time, in 1957, that the Delhi Improvement Authority, the primary company that may be tasked with overseeing such a grasp plan, was shaped, by an act of Parliament. The DDA grew to become a mannequin for different states to observe. In 1973, the Uttar Pradesh authorities handed the Uttar Pradesh Planning and Improvement Act to develop cities like Lucknow, Kanpur, Varanasi and Allahabad alongside the Delhi mannequin, and arrange authorities just like the DDA for every of them.

In 1984, underneath this city planning act, Dehradun city, comprising 172 villages and Mussoorie, comprising 13 villages, have been introduced underneath the newly created Mussorie Dehradun Improvement Authority. A blueprint for the subsequent 20 years, the Grasp Plan 1981-2001, was finalised in 1985.

When this grasp plan lapsed in 2001, a brand new state had come into being – with Dehradun as its new interim capital. As stress on town’s land and infrastructure intensified, as a substitute of strengthening its growth plan, the authorities delayed drafting and implementing a brand new one.

This delay, based on many authorities officers, city planners and residents, has led to a state of affairs the place Dehradun is steadily counted amongst India’s ten most polluted cities. At the same time as Dehradun’s authorities draft a brand new plan, tracing the evolution of the present grasp plan is revealing of how in India, such methods are sometimes poorly thought out, and much more poorly executed.


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Modern Dehradun was born within the 1700s. The town will get its title from a Sikh dera, a form of settlement, which as soon as existed in what’s now Paltan Bazar, within the coronary heart of town. A dargah, or shrine, which lay inside the dera nonetheless exists, devoted to Guru Ram Rai, a Sikh chief who was given the fiefdom of Dehradun by Aurangzeb. Ram Rai’s father, the seventh guru of Sikhism, excommunicated him from the faith as a result of he appeased the Mughal ruler.

Since then, the Dehradun area, and Mussoorie particularly, has been a spot of refuge for exiles and dissenters, mentioned anthropologist and creator Lokesh Ohri, who lives in Dehradun. Amongst them was Emir Dost Muhammad Khan, an Afghan king who was exiled to Mussoorie after the primary Anglo-Afghan Battle of 1839. (Khan missed his pulao and biryani a lot that he introduced a particular number of basmati rice with him, which grew to become well-known as Dehradun basmati.) The Sikh prince Duleep Singh was exiled to the city in 1852, after the Anglo-Sikh warfare. Amongst dissenters, the All India Gorkha League was established in Dehradun in Twenties, and would go on to lift a requirement within the Nineteen Nineties for a separate nation of Gorkhaland.

The urbanisation of Dehradun begam within the 1840s, based on historian Shekhar Pathak. “Until in regards to the early 1800s, there have been hardly any settlements within the Doon valley,” Pathak mentioned. “There have been short-term winter residences of individuals from the mountains.”

Issues started to vary within the 1820s, with “the creation of Mussoorie as an unique European settlement,” Pathak defined. “The wants of this elite created colonies in Dehradun of Indians to cater to them.” He in contrast the expansion of Dehradun to Haldwani and Jalpaiguri, which grew to assist the colonia-era hill stations of Nainital and Darjeeling respectively.

Since then, the inhabitants of Dehradun has elevated in spurts. The primary occurred when the railways got here to Dehradun in 1904. (Ruskin Bond advised me that the primary prepare introduced his grandfather to town.) The second got here after Partition, when refugees from Pakistan have been settled within the Prem Nagar space within the outskirts of Dehradun.

Because the inhabitants grew, extra industrial models got here up within the metropolis within the a long time after independence, together with textile mills, flour mills and a significant bulb manufacturing unit.

Yet one more spurt got here when the Oil and Pure Gasoline Firm based its nationwide headquarters within the metropolis within the Sixties. The corporate additionally arrange related institutes devoted to coaching and analysis in fields corresponding to drilling expertise and petroleum exploration. This was accompanied by the constructing of main infrastructure, together with workplaces and housing complexes.

The river Rispana, as soon as the satisfaction of Dehradun together with the river Bindal, is now decreased to a trickle.

It was solely in 1963 that efforts to handle this progress started, with the Uttar Pradesh state authorities declaring it a “regulated space”, underneath one authority – the sub-divisional Justice of the Peace of Dehradun district, by which town is positioned.

The primary grasp plan got here solely 20 years later. However the metropolis’s deterioration continued. “Dehradun was first throughout the nation in a rating of cities primarily based on air air pollution, completed by the Central Air pollution Management Board within the early Nineteen Nineties,” mentioned Anita Sharma, Analysis Scientist, Environmental High quality Monitoring Group on the Individuals’s Science Institute, Dehradun.

The second grasp plan was notably essential for town, sincet it lined the a long time instantly after Dehradun grew to become the capital of the brand new state of Uttarakhand. However the plan has had a shaky journey – it was drawn up solely in 2005, 5 years after the brand new state was shaped. It was solely finalised three years later, in 2008. It was carried out for 5 years, however then amended in 2013. No report was created to accompany the amended plan.

A metropolis’s grasp plan has a written portion, generally known as the report, in addition to a map portion. The written portion spells out the standing of the financial system and demography of town, and presents estimates of how these are prone to develop sooner or later. Primarily based on these estimates, the grasp plan makes suggestions, corresponding to will increase in residential or industrial areas, widening of inner-city roads, and the setting apart of areas for industries and industrial areas. The map portion of the grasp plan divides town into varied land-use classes with colors, every of which represents a distinct class. The index for these colors is revealed within the report of the grasp plan.

“They’re utilizing the map of 2013 and the report of 2008 to clear the maps,” mentioned Satish Ghildiyal, a former official on the Mussoorie Dehradun Improvement Authority, who took robust objection to this seemingly arbitrary course of. “The place is the report for the 2013 plan?”

There have been different issues. “The federal government order of 2008 finalised the Grasp Plan 2005-2025 even because the order itself mentioned that amendments have been being made to vary land use in 4 villages with an space of round 200 hectares,” Ghildiyal mentioned. “How will you finalise one thing if amendments are nonetheless being made? It’s a must to inform the general public and take their feedback, but it surely was by no means completed.”

Within the 2013 modification, the housing division additionally expanded the realm underneath industrial use alongside 62 roads in Dehradun. Ghildiyal identified that when such sweeping conversions are carried out, they run the chance of fixing land earmarked for public use into land meant for industrial exercise, from which just a few would revenue. In the meantime, he added, the modifications additionally gave “large advantages to the individuals who had land with non-commercial land use classes” earlier than the amendments.

Additional, Ghildiyal identified, in 1988, Dehradun had been notified by the surroundings ministry as an “eco-sensitive space” underneath the Surroundings Safety Act of 1986, making it necessary for its grasp plans to be permitted by the ministry. This approval, Ghildiyal mentioned, had not been obtained for the 2005-2025 plan.

Ghildiyal determined to combat what he noticed as flagrant violations of legislation, and filed a petition within the Uttarakhand Excessive Court docket in 2016. He argued that the grasp plan didn’t have the required approval from the surroundings ministry, and in addition challenged the amendments made to the plan.

In June 2018, the court docket handed a judgement scrapping the plan and directing the state to acquire clearance from the surroundings ministry. The court docket additionally imposed a wonderful of Rs 5 lakh on Mussoorie Dehradun Improvement Authority for not complying with the 1988 notification. The state took the matter to the Supreme Court docket, which stayed the Excessive Court docket order on July 10, 2018, in impact restoring the plan – Ghildiyal wasn’t in a position to attend that listening to.

In the meantime, town’s planning remained inefficient at each degree. Whereas a grasp plan is the broad blueprint of how a metropolis will develop, it’s operationalised by Zonal Improvement Plans, underneath which town is split into zones. Dehradun has 11 such zones, with guidelines for development exercise in every, relying on the character of the settlements inside them. Within the case of Dehradun, though the grasp plan was finalised in 2008, the zonal plans have been notified solely in 2017.

“The nuances of a grasp plan are within the zonal laws,” an official on the City and Nation Planning Organisation in Dehradun mentioned on situation of anonymity. “The grasp plan offers a broad image, however how the concepts of the grasp plan will apply on the bottom is ruled by the zonal plans.”

Within the absence of zonal plans, the official added, “it’s simple to interpret the grasp plan in any method attainable, and construct something”.

In the meantime, plans to advertise green-building within the state, or development that adheres to specified architectural norms with respect to ecological impression, have been diluted. The official mentioned, “In 2015, we allowed an additional three p.c Flooring Space Ratio to those that constructed inexperienced buildings” underneath the norms of GRIHA, a reputed inexperienced ranking system. “However there was plenty of stress on us to dispose of the inexperienced constructing requirement. In 2019, the requirement was completed away with, whereas maintaining the additional Flooring Space Ratio.”


Many consider that Dehradun’s ecological sensitivity, and the truth that it’s a valley, with out giant tracts of land to develop, make it unsuitable for a capital. That is mirrored in the truth that greater than 20 years after the state’s formation, Dehradun continues to be technically as “interim capital”.

Sanjay Jain, a tea property proprietor whose household has been residing within the outskirts of Dehradun for the reason that Fifties, defined that Rajnath Singh was the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh in 2000, and because the 2002 state elections approached, “It was determined in a single day that the brand new Uttaranchal state shall be carved out and its capital shall be Dehradun.” Jain defined that it took solely between three and 4 months from the discussions on the creation of a brand new state to its precise carving out in November 2000. (Initially generally known as Uttaranchal, the state’s title was modified to Uttarakhand in 2006.)

The creation of the state, and Dehradun’s new standing as its capital, led to a inhabitants increase. Between 2001 and 2011, the inhabitants of Dehradun district, by which town is positioned, grew by 32% – virtually double the nationwide common. In simply two years, between 2000 and 2002, based on the figures from the Grasp Plan 2005-2025, the variety of outlets in Dehradun doubled, from 6,306 to 12,915.

Immediately, the built-up space in Dehradun far exceeds what’s offered for underneath the grasp plan, based on the nameless official of the City and Nation Planning Organisation. Nivedita Kukreti, town’s senior superintendent of police, famous that as of 2017, town had extra registered automobiles (10 lakh) than voters (7.5 lakh).

Different issues abound. Dehradun is on the Nationwide Clear Air Program’s listing of Indian cities with essentially the most polluted air. Longtime residents say that after 2010, town noticed flooding and waterlogging for the primary time – it’s now a daily phenomenon, and happens each few years. In the meantime, town’s two predominant rivers, Rispana and Bindal, as soon as the satisfaction of town, are decreased to a trickle for many of the yr. Gone are the quite a few timber that lined canals that had been constructed throughout the colonial period. Additionally gone are the litchi orchards, tea estates and basmati fields that when outlined this previous colonial city.

The impression is seen far past Dehradun’s metropolis limits. The hills alongside the Dehradun-Mussoorie street have been as soon as laden with silver oak, rhododendron and sal timber. Now, the jungle has thinned out and is steadily punctuated by concrete constructions. Visitors pile-ups are frequent. Ruskin Bond advised me he had lately run into one on Mussoorie’s predominant avenue, referred to as Mall Highway. “It took me two hours to cowl a distance of 100 yards,” he mentioned.

Jain mentioned that the issue of poor planning was exacerbated by the state’s third chief minister, ND Tiwari, who held the publish from 2002 to 2007. Tiwari is usually credited with conceptualising the commercial zone of Noida within the Nationwide Capital Area, “and he tried to develop Dehradun, and Uttarakhand on the whole, alongside the identical strains,” Jain mentioned. “He put all of the burden of academic and industrial infrastructure on Dehradun and Udham Singh Nagar,” one other district to the south. “The remainder of the hill districts have been left untouched,” Jain added.

The designation of the realm as eco-sensitive in 1988 meant that any main development within the metropolis needed to be permitted by the surroundings ministry, particularly by a committee on eco-sensitive zones. However haphazard development continued, together with alongside the Rispana and Bindal rivers.

Lots of the buildings that got here up by the rivers after Uttarakhand was declared a state belong to the federal government, together with the Vidhan Sabha, the Doordarshan and Akashvani Studios, Raipur Police Station, Nehru Colony Police Station, and the Uttarakhand Tradition Directorate.

In 2019, the district administration issued notices to 220 entities, together with authorities workplaces, who had constructed on the rivers’ floodplain. However, referring to the Vidhan Sabha and the Doordarshan and Akashvani Studios, a July 2019 information report in Garhwal Submit, a each day primarily based in Uttarakhand, famous, “The district administration has not dared to ship notices relating to these two buildings based on sources within the district administration.”

In response to a person working with town administration on the brand new grasp plan, “The encroachments stay and town administration continues to be within the strategy of coping with them.”

As migrant labourers poured into town to work on these constructions, many prosperous residents of Dehradun, who have been nostalgic about its tree-lined avenues, blamed the state of town on slums that sprung as much as home them. A few of these slums have been constructed alongside the rivers, and are immensely weak to floods: the partitions of homes are inside metres of the river, and their sewage strains open instantly into the waters.

Residents say that Dehradun started to see common flooding after 2010. Probably the most weak are the migrant staff who helped assemble buildings for the prosperous, however whose personal housing wants have been ignored.

The view of those residents of town as the issue, nonetheless, is deeply flawed. As historian Shekhar Pathak identified, these staff have been important for the event increase in Dehradun, which so many others have profited from, and but town administration by no means addressed their housing wants.

“The federal government forgot to deal with the housing wants of those that constructed homes for others in Dehradun,” he mentioned.

Many of those slums home migrant labourers from the hill districts of Uttarakhand, in addition to from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. “Many of the migrant staff are employed by the development business and within the villages round Dehradun. A major quantity additionally rely on MGNREGA work,” mentioned Shankar Gopalakrishnan, an activist with Chetna Andolan, a non-profit that works with migrant labourers.

There have been a number of makes an attempt at demolishing these slums, however in a sample acquainted throughout totally different cities, the areas quickly grew to become vital constituencies, and remained. In 2018, the federal government handed a notification prohibiting the demolition of slums alongside the rivers for 3 years; in 2021, this was prolonged by one other three years.

“I’ve invested all my financial savings in constructing this home, and there may be the concern that the federal government would possibly come and demolish this basti anytime,” mentioned Sunita, a 50-year-old resident of Vir Gabbar Singh Basti, on the banks of the Rispana. Sunita got here to Dehradun within the Nineteen Nineties as a toddler, and has since labored as home assist. “Dehradun might need developed, however life for us has remained the identical,” mentioned Kayum Ali, Sunita’s cousin, who got here to Dehradun just a few years after her. “Though the each day wage has elevated, so have prices. And since Corona, there may be additionally much less work.”

In the case of draining sources like water, in the meantime, it’s not the slums, however the proliferation of recent constructions which might be largely accountable – not simply within the metropolis but in addition alongside the slopes of the Mussoorie hills. These forested hills, with a mattress of limestone beneath, present the water flowing into the streams and rivers that feed Dehradun and Mussoorie.

Many of those new constructions are linked to institutes of upper schooling. “Earlier than 2000, there have been hardly any larger schooling institutes,” mentioned the anthropologist and creator Lokesh Ohri. “Now there are greater than 14, and most of them are on the Dehradun-Mussoorie street. Since these institutes appeal to a number of college students from well-to-do households from locations like Meerut, Saharanpur, who’ve disposable earnings, many residential complexes have come up within the space to accommodate college students who are not looking for the restrictions of a hostel life.”

Chopra identified that these constructions had left these hill areas desperately in need of water, and depending on tankers. “These areas are additionally vital recharge zones for the streams and rivers,” he mentioned. “By developing there, we are going to ultimately go away Dehradun parched.”

Unplanned development in Dehradun, and in Mussoorie, has severely depleted the area’s water sources. Lots of the residents of the hill areas are depending on tankers for his or her water provide.

The fast progress of Dehradun has been accompanied by a increase in costs of land. Many locals consider that individuals from inside the state haven’t benefited sufficiently from this. In 2002, a Congress authorities had positioned a restrict of 500 sq. metres on the quantity of land that somebody from outdoors the state might purchase, however a BJP-led authorities decreased this in 2007 to 250 sq. metres. In 2017, the BJP authorities led by Trivendra Singh Rawat did away with restrictions altogether.

This has grow to be a spotlight of agitation for the individuals of Uttarakhand, who’re demanding land legal guidelines that forestall individuals from outdoors the state from shopping for land inside it – such legal guidelines exist in neighbouring Himachal Pradesh. This has been raised as a problem within the upcoming election in early 2022, by the state’s solely regional celebration, Uttarakhand Kranti Dal.

Some issues run even deeper, actually. Geologically, Dehradun is a valley shaped by two mountain ranges that have been created alongside geological faults, or fractures within the earth’s crust: the Mussoorie mountains, which emerge from the Predominant Boundary Fault, and the Mohand Hills, which emerge from the Himalayan Frontal Fault. This location alongside two fault strains makes the area extremely seismic – it’s categorised as a zone IV area, the second-most weak class. Which means development exercise right here has to account for seismological components – however, consultants famous, that is hardly ever completed. “There are constructing requirements of the Bureau of Indian Requirements, however they’re hardly ever adopted, as a result of many of the development is being completed by builders, and so they wish to save price,” mentioned a senior college of geology on the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Research in Dehradun on situation of anonymity.

A 2007 examine, carried out by college students enrolled in a collaborative MTech program between the Andhra College and the Indian Institute of Distant Sensing in Dehradun, regarded on the locality of Dalanwala ward inside the metropolis. The examine in contrast GIS photos of the realm in 2000 and 2005, and located a “outstanding improve in constructing development”, with an addition of 117 buildings throughout the interval.

Of the 738 buildings within the space, the examine discovered that “221 buildings are dangerous as at the next depth of earthquake these would collapse and there can be an immense lack of life and property.”


Planning in Dehradun can be hindered by an acute scarcity of officers who must be overseeing it. The 2 our bodies that take care of city growth are the City and Nation Planning Workplace and the Mussoorie Dehradun Improvement Authority: the previous caters to the city growth wants of the state of Uttarakhand, whereas the latter focuses particularly on Dehradun and Mussoorie, complemented by the previous.

Whereas the city planning workplace has 4 planners, out of a complete sanctioned 15 positions, the Mussoorie Dehradun Improvement Authority doesn’t have a single planner. All planning work is, due to this fact, outsourced. “We outsourced the zonal growth plan work and there was plenty of communication points,” the official on the City and Nation Planning Workplace mentioned. “We needed to declare the Mussoorie-Dehradun street space as a delicate zone and prohibit high-rises there. However due to the communication hole, we couldn’t do this.”

Normally, the acquisition of a bit of land and development over it need to be permitted by two totally different city authorities. As soon as the land is purchased, it’s mutated, or transferred to the client’s title, by the income division. The constructing map is permitted by the event authority, in Dehradun’s case, the Mussoorie Dehradun Improvement Authority.

In Dehradun, the city planning official mentioned, there may be little communication on this entrance between these two authorities.

“In different states, the land use is talked about within the strategy of getting the mutation completed,” the official mentioned. “However right here in Uttarakhand, an individual buys the land and the income division shouldn’t be bothered with the land use.”

So, an individual would possibly purchase a bit of land, maybe by a property supplier, with the intention to construct a residence. However after they strategy the event authority to get their constructing plans cleared, they may discover that the land is classed as “city land”, meant for constructions like bus stands and markets.

“He gained’t find out about it until he goes to MDDA to get his map handed,” the official mentioned. “This results in corruption and unlawful development.”

Ohri, too, identified that there have been a number of authorities answerable for city affairs within the metropolis. “There may be the MDDA, the City and Nation Planning Workplace, the SMART Metropolis board, the committee underneath the Nationwide Clear Air Program,” he mentioned. “There may be additionally an Uttarakhand State Local weather Motion Plan, which talks about sustainable city growth.”

The city planning official mentioned there was poor coordination between varied authorities answerable for growth. “All of the plans are on paper and there’s no communication between the assorted authorities to make them a actuality on the bottom,” the official mentioned. They cited the instance of recent constructing bye-laws which might be presently being drafted. “We now have shared the draft with all of the departments for over a yr, however nobody has given a single remark,” they mentioned. In one other occasion of lax coordination, they defined, the workplace had made repeated requests to the director of the Rajaji Nationwide Park, simply over 50 km from town, “for making a buffer zone outdoors the park boundary, however he hasn’t responded.”

Some observers noticed hope in Dehradun’s inclusion within the Good Metropolis mission, which goals to develop cities in a way that may “drive financial progress and enhance the standard of life of individuals”. However a member of the Good Metropolis board of Dehradun, which oversees the mission’s implementation, mentioned on situation of anonymity that whereas the mission ought to have been used for actions corresponding to reviving cultural heritage within the metropolis, putting in sewage and different waste therapy crops, and boosting public transport, it went in the direction of primary development work, corresponding to paving over canals and tarring the outer strips of roads to create footpaths.

In one other stark irony, the power of town’s residents to oppose such initiatives has been undercut by a undertaking underneath the Good Cities Mission itself: a digital library that’s arising close to the Parade Floor in Dehradun, previously used as an area for public protests. “Simply after the protestors in opposition to CAA” – the Citizenship Modification Act – “have been moved out of this protesting space as a result of pandemic, the federal government dug up the complete house and began constructing the library,” Gopalakrishnan mentioned. “This was the one open house for registering protests in Dehradun. The brand new place is in Ekta Nagar, on the outskirts of town, away from the whole lot.”

This reporting is made attainable with assist from Report for the World, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project.


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