Shri Bansidhar Tiwari, IAS,
Mussoorie Dehradun Development Authority,
Transport Nagar, Near ISBT,
Dehradun – 248 001,
Dear Shri Tiwari,
I am writing with reference to the Dehradun Draft Master Plan 2041, which was released in the public domain for citizen feedback, for a period of 30 days in April 2023, by Mussoorie Dehradun Development Authority (MDDA).
As you are aware, many citizens, citizen groups, architects, draftsmen, builders, businesses, academic institutions, RWAs and the media at large had asked for additional time for public consultation, which was not provided by MDDA. Additionally, MDDA did not conduct any public dialogue regarding the aforementioned Master Plan.
As things stand today, I am given to understand that close to 800 letters have been received by MDDA in response to the above Dehradun Draft Master Plan 2041. It is now close to six months (May to October 2023) since the closure of the public feedback window. I will be grateful if you can share information on the status of the said 800 letters, the upcoming steps on how this community feedback will be handled, and broad timelines for the next set of actions with reference to the implementation of the Dehradun Master Plan.
While I await your response to the above letter, please allow me to share some major and critical citywide concerns with you. I believe, as do most other people of Dehradun, that the below mentioned apprehensions are extremely grave. These require serious thought and a well-planned, carefully executed and sustainable strategy by the Uttarakhand state government and various urban agencies spearheaded by MDDA, to cope with the challenges at hand:
1. There are frequent talks of diluting the Doon Valley Notification of 1989. As you are aware, this notification came on account of the special, unique and sensitive nature of the Doon Valley, and to save Dehradun and Mussoorie from indiscriminate limestone quarrying.
Today, the city of Dehradun and the larger Doon Valley finds itself brutally vandalized due to faulty planning, lack of foresight, rampant “legal”/ illegal constructions, unabated concretization and citizen apathy. Diluting the Doon Valley Notification in the name of industrialization, commercialization and further concretization will be akin to the proverbial last nail in the coffin of Doon. I, as a concerned citizen and a well wisher of Dehradun, strongly urge and vehemently oppose changes to the Doon Valley Notification in the name of further “development”.
Instead of the above mentioned approach, I believe that the focus should be on plugging the existing loopholes and the strengthening of urban governance structures. Changes in the Doon Valley Notification, if done, will cause irreversible damage to Dehradun. It will thus be prudent that the said Notification is not tinkered with under any circumstances.
2 In a related matter, in a recent hearing in the High Court in Nainital, the Hon’ble judges when addressing a PIL over the lack of compliance with the Doon Valley Notification for formulation of a tourism development plan within the Doon Valley, pulled up the Uttarakhand state government on September 6, 2023.
“The Himalayas were formed thousands of years ago but disasters are happening only now. —— All these disasters are completely man-made,” the division bench comprising Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Rakesh Thapliyal had said. The judges also said the state has “completely disregarded the law and wants to commercialize everything”.
The court was hearing a PIL that sought enforcement and strict adherence to the Doon Valley Notification after recent landslides and subsidence in areas such as Dhanaulti and Chamba due to rains. In this case, the court observed that the state government had failed to formulate the required tourism development plan in line with the aforementioned notification.
3. As per projections in the Draft Master Plan, it is estimated that the population of Dehradun, including floating population, will touch 23.5 lakh to 24.0 lakh by 2041. While we currently don’t have population numbers for Dehradun due to the lack of Census data after 2011, it is a widely held belief that the estimated population of the city of Dehradun is currently in the region of 11.5 lakh to 12 lakh.
The question that then merits attention is the carrying capacity of Dehradun. As is well known, the Government of Uttarakhand had first spoken about carrying capacity in January 2023, in the wake of the Joshimath land subsidence issue.
Nine months later, we are aware that 15 towns in Uttarakhand viz., Mussoorie, Nainital, Almora, Pithoragarh, Tehri, Uttarkashi, Pauri, Lansdowne, Gopeshwar, Karanprayag, Bhowali, Ranikhet, Kapkot, Champawat and Dharchula will be evaluated for their carrying capacity. It remains to be seen how this exercise will progress and what actions the government will take in this regard in the likely outcome that the towns are found exceeding their carrying capacity.
With Dehradun, it is evidently clear that the town has already far exceeded its carrying capacity. With its population slated to double in the next two decades, how the city will cope with the extra strain is not an existential but a real question for the city and its people. In other words, MDDA needs to look at its Draft Master Plan again, this time with the added lens of carrying capacity, and make necessary amendments in the Master Plan. Instead of simply accepting the expansion and upcoming population explosion, MDDA needs to proactively seek ways of decongesting the city of Dehradun.
Apart from the above, being the key policy maker responsible for the planning and development of Dehradun, MDDA has an added responsibility to genuinely convey Dehradun’s carrying capacity worries to the Uttarakhand state government and ensure that the city does not crumble and ultimately collapse under its own weight.
4. Earthquakes of low intensity are reported frequently in Uttarakhand. The Dehradun Draft Master Plan has spoken about fault lines in the city and in the larger Doon Valley. The Master Plan also mentions imposing construction curbs in these areas. However, till date, there is no clarity about these potentially devastating fault lines.
In the meantime, MDDA continues to allow hundreds of new large-scale commercial and residential construction in areas that are known to be sensitive, such as Rajpur Road, Sahastradhara Road, Shahanshahi Ashram, and others. These are areas through which fault lines are apparently passing. The surge in construction in such sensitive locations is a matter where utmost restraint and legally enforced curbs is the need of the hour.
I therefore urge extreme caution be taken, and request MDDA to look at the issue of fault lines immediately. There is no need to wait eternally for the final Master Plan to be implemented. We are all aware that this is a tedious and time consuming process. Thus, “life and death” elements of the Draft Master Plan such as the issue of fault lines and curbs on construction upon them can and should be implemented without any further delay.
5. On most urban fronts – waterlogging, sanitation, sewerage, heritage conservation, climate crisis, ecology, environment, greenery, urban forestry, parks, recreational areas, slum redevelopment, urban housing, walkability, state of rivers, encroachments, drainage, potholed roads, the chaos at ISBT, disaster preparedness, socio-cultural facilities, safety and security, public health (example, dengue management) and many others – the city of Dehradun is struggling and is on the verge of collapse.
What is starkly needed is a strategic, sharp overview and dedicated work plans on all these and many other elements that make a city vibrant, functional and sustainable. Merely constructing a few flyovers and painting city walls as is now being planned for the upcoming Uttarakhand Investor Summit in Dehradun in December 2023, are no panacea for the systemic mess that the city finds itself in today.
A holistic, “whole of government” approach with an updated governance structure is the absolute need of the hour. It is abundantly clear that the current structures and systems are failing to deliver the much needed results. “Business as usual” is not changing any outcomes. Thus, the state government and MDDA need to tinker and come up with out-of-the-box ideas. Perhaps a bright and hard-working IAS official of impeccable integrity could be appointed as the Chief City Officer (CCO) for Dehradun. She/ he can be given a three to four year term and made responsible for the overall functioning and future of the city. With multiple departments today, no one seems to be in charge or caring for the city.
6. While the Uttarakhand government is gung-ho about the upcoming Delhi-Doon expressway and the much anticipated increase in the number of tourists, the citizens of Dehradun are extremely worried about the traffic snarls and bottlenecks this will create within the city. Infrastructure expansion should not be done at the expense of the hapless people of Doon and its already crumbling systems. There is a need to work on solutions for the massive traffic jams that will likely begin from Asharodi or any other spot where the expressway merges with the city of Dehradun.
It must be highlighted that traffic management, parking facilities and public transport in Dehradun have deteriorated beyond repair. There seems to be no solution and no sustained efforts to correct and improve the situation. People in Dehradun have been reading and hearing about various mobility options during the past few years – from metro to neo-metro, to light rail transit, to pod taxis – but the lack of concrete initiatives has diluted public trust in all these announcements.
To repeat, the Delhi-Doon expressway, once operational, will make matters worse for the citizens of Dehradun. It is thus requested that the state government, MDDA and other concerned authorities start preparing proactively for the vehicular assault that will hit Dehradun and its cramped, already stressed and narrow streets soon.
7. The entire city is dug up due to various Smart City and sundry other projects. While one understands that infrastructure development takes time, the pace of work in Dehradun is excruciatingly slow. All agencies involved in various projects need to be pulled up and asked to perform faster and better.
Beyond a point, inefficiency, sloth and those with compromised ethics should be penalized and slow performers (both contractors and officials) need to be weeded out quickly from the system. They need to be replaced by agencies that have impeccable credentials and have a proven track record of delivering quality work on time.
8. Doon has become a dirty city. Open drains, garbage on streets and weak waste collection, transportation and processing set ups are symptomatic of a deeper, wider, urban rot in the city. As the city development agency, MDDA needs to intervene and ensure improvements in sanitation and cleanliness in the city.
No city can be called progressive if it is constantly surrounded by trash and a lackluster waste management system. No amount of swanky malls can address this issue. I will be grateful if MDDA can intervene and see where it can extend support to authorities and citizens alike, in this domain.
9. Drunken driving, rampant substance abuse, street violence, a plethora of shady spas, road rage, and road accidents have become the new norm in Dehradun. While I understand that this is not the mandate for MDDA, yet as the premier organization responsible for holistic development of Dehradun, this is an issue that needs to be looked into through better and safer city planning by MDDA. I will be grateful if you can identify areas where you can extend support in the minimization of the above trends.
10. Citizen engagement needs to be enshrined and institutionalized in the functioning of MDDA. There is currently no mechanism where the citizen is seen and recognized as a participant or stakeholder in the functioning of the city. Some sporadic programs that are conducted in the garb of citizen engagement are largely mere formalities.
Today, there is not one single authority in the city or in the government that engages with citizens or involves them on a regular basis. There are no functional city centric helplines; social media usage by authorities, if any, is both lopsided and one sided. If and when citizens do write or respond on social media, they hardly ever get any responses.
MDDA should consider inviting two to three citizens in all their board meetings and various other meetings as special invitees. However, courtesy is important and if invited, citizens deserve to be given due respect. This process, if well organized and conducted in an impartial and sincere manner will yield positive results for the city.
I have brought the above points to your notice with the hope that you will not only reflect and work on these, but will also escalate this to the highest levels in the Uttarakhand state government. MDDA is the premier agency responsible for the planning and development of Dehradun; thus these comments, queries and questions are addressed to you.
I would like to conclude with what I started with, which is the Dehradun Draft Master Plan 2041. I once again urge, repeat and appeal that MDDA conducts a series of stakeholder dialogues across the city and captures the feedback and suggestions of people. There is a need to work urgently on multiple fronts. A lot of time has already gone into inflicting damage on the city. It is high time that action is taken to arrest the decline with the help of urban planners, architects, other experts, and citizens.
Finally, I earnestly hope that you will look into each of these concerns and suggestions with empathy, a positive mindset and an open attitude. I reiterate that these are all critical issues for Dehradun, and if the Uttarakhand state government and MDDA do not take adequate and timely measures, the city of Dehradun will sooner or later burst at its seams. It’s time to act, and act now, with full force and foresight.
Thank you for looking into the above.
I shall eagerly await your reply.