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Our Need to Know

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We, the Government 

By HUGH AND COLLEEN GANTZER

The Karnataka imbroglio has highlighted the fact that many of our netas are self-serving dynasts. They are obsessed with a hunger for power and wealth. Politics, for them, is a lucrative business in which taxes are non-existent, laws are for others and the only qualification for this job is the ability to bluff and bluster. This has happened because We, the People of India, have been bamboozled into thinking that it is Disloyal and Anti- Indian to ask questions. This is Talibanism! Our greatest Socio-Cultural export, the one that proclaims the undying essence of our Indian ethos, is Buddhism. The Buddha refused to accept the unquestioning reverence given to a guru. He advised his disciples to “Question everything, even what I say!” When we apply this analytical yardstick to a statement, followed by a decision, made by our Chief Minister, we are disturbed. In a full-page interview given to a national daily, and carried in its 5 August, 2018 edition, CM Trivendra Singh Rawat was quoted as saying “Mussoorie was established around 200 years ago and now it is full. So now we are focused on developing 13 new destinations.” And yet the Garhwal Post of 11 July, 2019, reported “Mussoorie MLA Ganesh Joshi expressed gratitude to Chief Minister TS Rawat … for the recent Cabinet decision to relax construction norms in Mussoorie, permitting buildings to be 12 metres in height.” Very intriguing! MLA Ganesh Joshi is known to be one of our more active politicians who has his ear to the ground and is responsive to the needs of his constituency. This, presumably, is the reason why the CM acceded to our MLA’s request. The Cabinet decision does, however, raise many questions. 1. Won’t this addition in height add to Mussoorie’s human, biotic, pressure? If Mussoorie was full in August 2018, then how did it become “less full” eleven months later? How can a “full” Mussoorie accommodate another residential floor in every hotel, guest house, home-stay and private dwelling? At a rough estimate this would add between 33% and 50% to the number of people drawing on our town’s strained resources. How will this additional demand be met? 2. Has there been a new Carrying Capacity study which justifies this increased burden? If so, then who were the experts who did it? The last expert study was published in 2001 and was done by the LBSNAA’s NSDART. That study said, quite categorically, “That the construction cannot expand is clear”. On what new data has this decision to expand construction been based? 3. Do we have an adequacy of water, sufficient capacity in our sewage system, enough garbage disposal facilities, a pragmatic traffic handling plan and the infrastructure to provide other basic Municipal civic services to tackle the additional burden of this expanded construction? 4. Are the Members of our Cabinet aware that Mussoorie sits on an earthquake-prone zone? Before taking this decision, has our Cabinet sought the advice of the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology or the Geological Survey of India, both based in Dehradun? Has the MDDA consulted with experts on retro-fitting old buildings to withstand seismic shocks? 5. Should not our Cabinet read GP’s report on Dhanaulti (GP 15 July) and reverse its hurried decision? The additional floors will hasten Mussoorie’s descent into an over-crowded, grimy, odious tourism slum. We are sure that the Cabinet was well-meaning, but ill-informed, in making this decision. Has it abandoned the CM’s plan to develop thirteen new destinations? Our rivers, unlike many beyond the Vindhyas, are fed by the snows of the glaciers of our Himalayas. Have we thought of developing new destinations around settlements in our river valleys, powered by run-of-the-river hydel stations? Run-of-the-river are “green” hydro-electric systems that do not require costly storage dams, do not stress a fragile environment but use the natural flow of the river to generate electricity. They can cater to local needs year-round feeding their excess energy into a central grid. They are enviro- sensitive: extra floors are enviro- destructive. If our Cabinet’s decision to permit an additional floor has been based on facts they must say so. We, the Government who voted them into power, have both a need, and a right, to know.