Can’t restrict construction: Draft plan

Pratibha Chauhan

Tribune News Service

Shimla, February 17

The Draft Shimla Development Plan (SDP) not only questions the purview of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in restricting the number of storeys, but also justifies the proposal to allow buildings with 2.5 floors in the congested no-construction core area on the basis of population density. The draft plan, which has been notified for objections and suggestions by the Town and Country Planning (TCP) Department, defends the relaxations in construction in violation of the NGT's November 2017 order. "While disposing of the case, the learned tribunal (NGT) has entered a field which does not belong to it. Whether a building should be single storey or three-storey is for the competent authority to decide. The TCP Department does not come under the purview of the NGT. Moreover, Himachal Pradesh is not a non-compliant state as it has been taking care of its environment and town planning," reads the observation on page 165 while deliberating upon the implications of the NGT order.

"The ban on construction beyond two-and-a-half floors in these areas has not helped much and, in turn, has encouraged illegal developments on the outskirts," is another observation. This, meanwhile, can be viewed as an admission that the TCP Department, Shimla MC and other agencies have failed to check illegal constructions.

Interestingly, all efforts by the state government to secure relief against the NGT order, which banned new constructions in the core area and restricted constructions to two-and-a-half storeys in Shimla Planning Area (SPA), have failed. With the Assembly elections scheduled later this year, the BJP regime is under pressure to give relief to the owners of about 25,000 unauthorised constructions in the state, with almost 20,000 being within the SPA.

The development plan draft justifies the proposal to allow two-and-a-half-storey structures in the core area and three-and-a-half floors in rest of the SPA on the basis of population density. As per the draft plan, population density in Shimla MC area is 77 persons per hectare (pph) whereas in areas outside the MC, it is below 7 pph, which indicates that these area can still accommodate more population and settlement development, if planned well.

The desirable population as per norms for hilly areas ranges from 60 to 90 pph. In eight of the present 24 wards in the Shimla MC, this figure has crossed 100 pph. "However, the population density in only two of these eight wards (falling in the core area) exceeds 100 pph," the SDP reads. It also points out that in 14 wards, the density population is well below 50 pph. While estimating the existing density, the floating tourist population was incorporated with local population in all 24 wards, based on the number of hotels available, beds and tourist destination in each ward.

Courtesy: Tribune News Service

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