With humans having encroached upon the riverbeds of the Rispana and Bindal, come the monsoon it will be reported that heavy rains have caused the rivers to ‘burst their banks’. Do these rivers have any banks left for them to burst? Narrow polluted rivulets during the summers, they become raging torrents during the rainy season, as velocity becomes necessary to cope with the volume. In most of Dehradun, all natural drainage has been blocked, while the practice of constructing roads with drains has been abandoned long ago. Of course, the drains that do exist have been majorly encroached upon and covered up.
It will take enormous political will to bring about the necessary change, as also support from the general populace. To begin with, the better off sections of society that encroach out of sheer greed and merely because it is possible, will need to be brought in line. The habit of adhering to municipal laws has to be inculcated in them. As such, the recent ‘tough’ anti-encroachment drives are a good start. Over a period of time, the zero-tolerance of the government towards such actions should become the accepted rule for society. There should be a particular focus on all those constructions that have come up illegally on the city’s natural drainage.
Once the principle has been strictly established, the government ought to work on shifting the poor people who have constructed homes in no-go areas, risking not only their lives, but also the ‘living entities’, the rivers. Of course, evicting them from their homes would be a major human rights and political issue, so it needs to handled with the necessary sensitivity. To begin with, a land bank needs to be acquired and cheap housing developed on it and made available to the evacuees, who should be registered at the time of eviction so that the usual irregularities do not take place.
Since it is a major task, it should be taken up in phases, dealing first with the most urgent sites. Then these areas should be strictly cordoned off so that there is no repeat of the encroachment. At the present, it has been seen that, even in areas where some riverfront development has been done, they have suffered neglect and encroachments begun.
In the meanwhile, all fresh encroachments of any kind should be acted upon with severity. Heavy fines should be imposed on transgressors, based upon the type of encroachment, to the point that it really hurts even the rich. Also, to contain influx of further population, counter-magnet urban areas should be developed in other parts of the valley in a planned manner. Only then, in the next twenty years, will it be possible to stabilise the environment and improve the quality of life in the Doon Valley.