The anti-encroachment drive undertaken in Dehradun on the directions of the High Court could end up being one of the best things that happened to Dehradun in the past couple of decades. Whether the end result is good or disappointing would depend on what and how it’s done by the authorities after the encroachments are demolished. However, before that stage is reached, a very glaring aspect that affects various spheres of life in Uttarakhand has been revealed once again by this episode- the tendency of the authorities and even citizens to perpetuate and ignore follies which end up assuming severely problematic proportions. As hundreds of encroachments on public roads were marked and demolished as part of the drive, there were many who question why these were allowed to come up and thrive for so many years in the first place.
The role of the authority concerned in actually making a mess of town planning is common knowledge which returns to public memory mainly during problematic situations like water logging, traffic jams and other imbalances in civic life which are generally ignored till it becomes hard to ignore them.
One may ask whether the authorities were unaware of the illegalities and mess taking place in the form of encroachments and illegal constructions all these years. The way the government machinery is with its various branches, it is difficult to believe that the authorities were unaware especially as in many cases, the role of the authority and politicians is also alleged in actively or passively facilitating such encroachments.
The Dehradun master-plan, the enforcement of which was also halted recently by the court had provision for dense tree plantation on both sides of the Rispana and Bindal rivers. However, private and government buildings came up on the banks (some claim the riverbed) and slums grew to such an extent that the wide channels of the rivers were converted to narrow conduits which now contain garbage, effluent and domestic sewage. During the rains, the rivers actually carry water for a brief period before returning to their degenerated state of being conduits for waste.