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Dehradun – A Lost Town


By Dr Shikha Uniyal Gairola

Today, even though the concrete forest has become the identity of Doon, it was not so two-and-a-half decades ago. Then called ‘Venice’ of Uttarakhand, Doon was known for its stuttering streams (canals). Life in Dehradun was heavily dependent upon these canals. These streams were rightly called the arteries of the town. Time changed and, with that, the mood of the city started changing. The cosmopolitan culture, which came after becoming the temporary capital in the year 2000, has made these streams a chapter of the past.

The thinking of unscientific development has always invited destruction. Something similar happened with Doon Ghati. While joining the blind race for development, Doon lost its beauty, while the canals that gave Doon a distinct identity also lost their existence. These canals encouraged basmati fields, litchi and mango orchards, and greens, while also making the body feel relaxed. Due to these canals, Doon was then called the ‘Venice’ of Uttarakhand. Sometimes these were referred as ‘khalas’ also. Due to these canals in the rainy season, there was never a problem of water logging in the city. The EC (East Canal) Road, which once ran along the canal, had many gharats on it.

People used this canal for irrigation of fields, drinking water, etc. Similarly, the West Canal flowing through the heart of Dehradun flowed along the GMS Road. But, over the last two-and-a-half decades, especially after Doon became the temporary capital in the year 2000, the canals were sent underground and networked with roads. As a result, a little rainfall also turns the streets into a swimming pool.

Without very expensive or fancy technology, our ancestors worked out sensible and aesthetically pleasing measures to harvest rainwater for drinking, irrigation, and other purposes. Not very long ago, when the machinations of short-sighted people with narrow aims had not ruined Dehradun, this city too had its system to collect rainwater.

The natural depressions which used to act as reservoirs of rainwater have been filled to construct buildings which have disrupted the natural water drainage system. The network of ‘Nalas’ and ‘khalas’, which carried water to such depressions and rivulets, has also been taken over by encroachments. This along with constructions on the banks and even the beds of rivers resulted in waterlogging in various areas during the monsoon. A few months later, many areas face a shortage of water. Imagine if the natural reservoirs had been preserved and maintained, there would have been lakes and smaller ponds in the city, and these would not only be a source of water but also enhance the environment and surroundings making it more profitable for all, including even those in the real estate business.

(Dr Shikha Uniyal Gairola is Assistant Professor, Law College Dehradun, Uttaranchal University)