M.A.D working to save the dying streams of Doon
Dehradun: While many N.G.O’s across the nation are coming under fire for their dubious sources of donations from abroad. One organization is setting an example for others by working selflessly to prevent drying up of the lifeline of a city. The M.A.D (Making a Difference by Being the Difference) members & volunteers are working tirelessly day in and day out to save the Bindal & Rispana streams which flow through the city of Dehradun. Many old timers recall that several years ago before Dehradun was declared the capital of a newly formed state of Uttarakhand. The Rispana & Bindal streams were perennial water bodies providing fresh cool water to the residents of Doon. But rapid & unplanned urbanization have reduced them to season streams. The situation is much worse now, the streams come to life only when there is a heavy downpour somewhere up in the mountains. Thus, the team of MAD took it upon themselves to save the dying lifelines of Dehradun. The team held a press conference in the city yesterday to create awareness on the issue.
Vision and not Politicization: Slums on the river beds must necessarily be rehabilitated.
Doon’s own student activist group Making a Difference by Being the Difference (MAD) has been persistently campaigning on the twin issues of the revival of streams and rehabilitation of slums in Dehradun city. The recent effort of parading the slum dwellers (in Gareeb Rally) in the heart of the State Capital was a petty political attempt at solving one of urban India’s most difficult problems, which is the mushrooming of slums. The following are the grounds on which MAD believes that the demand for regularization of “all slums” in the city is mala fide and deserves condemnation. For everything written below, MAD has video and RTI documentation available.
- A political perspective: Chief Minister Harish Rawat has twice committed publically to MAD’s demand for rehabilitation of slums and revival of streams of Doon valley. While attending MAD’s Chalo Tapkeshwar Event (on December 21, 2014) , the Chief Minister had called “Bindal” and “Rispana” the two lungs of Dehradun (Later he repeated the commitment in his round table tea party with MAD members on January 7, 2015). It may be noted that both streams are the hotspots of encroachment where slum dwellers live in the most inhuman conditions without access to basic sanitation. Hence MAD’s demand, as actively voiced by MAD’s Founder-Chairperson, Abhijay Negi , of reviving the streams and rehabilitating the slums on stream beds is backed up by the Chief Minister’s own commitment.
- A hydrological perspective: With a longer term perspective, it must be noted that though the slum dwellers might themselves desire property rights in the land they currently reside on, providing them basic amenities on such land illegally occupied is no solution and is in fact, the mother of a bigger problem. Moreover, it is though MAD’s efforts only that the National Institute of Hydrology (NIH) Roorkee report provides a big cheer to those campaigning for reviving Dehradun’s streams as it specifically calls Rispina a perennial stream with a width of 100 m in its upper catchment area, which loses its waters in its lower catchment areas as it fades away into slums and other kinds of encroachment. The NIH report had also recoded the observations of the local villagers about the Bindal stream where they have relied upon the testimony of the villagers and have recorded that till 1980, the springs around the source of Bindal river, were used for domestic demands including drinking water. However, now only a few sources are left and all residents had to shift to pipe-water. It must be noted that this NIH study was carried out on the orders of Chief Minister Harish Rawat only, while acting on MAD’s annual MADATHON campaign on reviving Doon’s streams. Moreover, MAD’s campaign for streams’ revival had also elicited support from Leader of Opposition, Ajay Bhatt who had written to Rawat on saving Rispina and Bindal in August last year.
- A bureaucratic perspective: The State Government had in February last year promulgated a notification paving the way for a task force to submit a report in four months’ time on slums rehabilitation. However, without any progress on the task force’s front; the Government suddenly revised its policy and constituted a Slum Areas Development Commission, currently chaired by Shri. Rajkumar (MLA). This commission in contrast to the task force has been given no mandate of rehabilitation which shows that the Government is not yet clear on its very policy as regards the slums.
- A realistic perspective: It is no secret that many slums in the city have come up right at the riverbed of these streams. The monsoon rains cause great damage to life and property of the poor people residing there. Hence, not only from an environmental aspect, but also for a sound overall development model, it is necessary to rehabilitate the slums away from the streams so that the streams which are being systematically murdered in Dehradun can be allowed to return and the slum-dwellers also get a life with dignity. Sadly, our political class has used slums as sources of vote bank and has a vested interest in continuing with their poverty. Otherwise, active efforts and rehabilitation would have already been underway and promises of giving wrongful ownership rights would not be made specially having seen the Kedarnath disaster in 2013.
- A legal perspective: The Supreme Court in the Hinch Lal Tiwari case and the Allahabad High Court in the Iqbal Ahmed case (in 2001) have given directions preventing usage of dried water bodies for any construction purposes in Uttar Pradesh. Many hundreds of water bodies were revived in UP by these orders, as the High Court regularly summoned the DMs to check up on the progress made. Moreover, in Jaspal Singh’s case, the Apex Court has held that even when substantial construction is complete; even then such construction would have to be dismantled if it has been done on a water body.
- An actual perspective: The argument that not enough land is available for rehabilitation falls flat, as in their written response to our RTI queries, Nagar Nigam, MDDA and SUDA have all told us that their role is to provide for rehabilitation. Former MNA, Shri. Harak Singh Rawat had further underlined the fact that nine flat complexes were ready; but everytime he made an effort towards rehabilitation, the political masters did not permit.
- A historical perspective: MAD has in its possession surveys conducted by Britishers, recorded in their memoirs which have in length recorded all-season flow in Dehradun’s streams (which MAD demands should be brought back).
- The problem is not just with the slum dwellers but also with the rich and the powerful who have shamelessly encroached upon the river land and reduced it to their private spaces.
MAD shall now begin a strong campaign to generate awareness among all Doonites about the aforesaid points and is going to begin a signature campaign throughout the city to this effect; which shall be later presented to CM Rawat. Present in the press conference were Founder-Chairperson Abhijay Negi, Coordinator Shardul Singh Rana, Prachi Batola, Saurabh Nautiyal, Manvendra Rawat, Saurav Joshi, Rajat Panwar, Shaurav Upadhyay among others.