By Subrat Das
Bhubaneswar: The capital city of Odisha and one of the planned cities of India, has now turned into a nightmare for the city planners, thanks to its mindless expansion and unhindered encroachments.
Bhubaneswar is the first one among 20 cities across India shortlisted for development under Smart City Mission in the first round of implementation. A special purpose vehicle, styled as Bhubaneswar Smart City Limited (BSCL), has been formed to implement the smart city proposals. Billed as one of the most peaceful cities in the country, it has attracted a lot many people to spend their rest of the life here. The residents are obviously expecting a good quality of life and ambiance here.
However, ensuring a planned expansion and prevention of mushrooming of slums has emerged as the greatest and foremost challenge before the Bhubaneswar Smart City Limited (BSCL).
Several parts of the city are witnessing urban flooding. Be it Acharya Vihar or Bomikhal, or the NH-side near the ISKCON Temple, it experiences artificial flood following a spell of shower. Last year, the photo of a passenger bus trapped in the pool of water near ISKCON Temple was flashed in media. Such type of scene is not rare, even now after a lot of hullabaloo in the administration and public uproar.
Bhubaneswar has as many as ten natural drainage channels, which discharges city’s rain and drain water. But most part of these natural drainage channels have been encroached and unauthorized and unchecked constructions have choked them, causing urban flooding, opine the city planning experts and green activists.
Over the years, several civic and planning bodies have come up in the city, which was designed by German Town Planning engineer Dr. Otto Koenigs Berger in 1946 and foundation stone of which was laid by the then Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in 1948. Bhubaneswar has seen the establishment of a Notified Area Council in 1949, birth of a municipality in 1979 and then a municipal corporation in 1994. The Bhubaneswar Development Authority came into being as a planning body.
Initially, Bhubaneswar was developed as a planned city with nine administrative units. However, the city grew in a lop sided and unplanned manner in the later days, thanks to the administrative laxity. Even the river beds and natural drainage channels were not spared from the encroachers, for which the city residents are paying the price now, lament the urban planning experts.
This beautiful city, which was once known as “city of temples”, has now turned into a city of slums. During 1995, the number of slums was around 100 and now the number has gone above 300. Many public places including parks and roads have now been under encroachment. Urban slums being a major vote bank, their eviction for public purposes has taken a back seat by the successive political parties in power.
The only remedy to this intriguing problem is the proper and planned rehabilitation of slums, opined the urban planners. The slum rehabilitation policy, which is under implementation by the Naveen Patnaik government, is now a pointer in this regard. But the scheme being time consuming and expensive, all the stakeholders, especially the financing agencies and real estate firms need to fold their sleeves and gear up, say the city planning experts.