New urban townships in Himachal face land constraints

In the face of land constraints, the urban development ministry put forth plans of developing two townships in Mandi and Kangra to meet the ever growing demand for urban housing.

Kishan Kapoor, urban development minister said that plans had been drawn to set up townships at Gaggal in Kangra and Namloh village in Mandi.

Land has been identified and the district administration has been asked to initiate land acquisition process so that these housing projects could take off. These projects and one at Vaknaghat near Shimla would help to take the housing load from the existing towns, said Kapoor

Ganesh Dutt, vice chairman Himachal Urban Development Authority (HIMUDA) the agency which is to execute these projects says, besides the new proposed townships work on an education hub for Baddi will start soon..

The land acquisition process has been completed and finances have been tied up and chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal would lay the foundation stone for it sometime next week, he said.

However, HIMUDA sources disclosed that land acquisition was a touchy matter and with the government having issued instructions that private land would need to be independently negotiated and bought from the owners.

Before plans to layout the new townships are drawn up, obtaining no objection clearances from forest officials, revenue authorities, from central aviation ministry for the Gaggal township, pollution control board and getting the landowners to agree to part with their land for a agreeable price are tough obstacles to overcome, the source said.

About 1200 bighas of land had been identified near Gaggal airport that could be developed for housing about six thousand people. In Mandi, the land sighted was about 1800 bighas which would be sufficient for setting up a housing project for about eight thousand people, he said.

Claims notwithstanding, the Vaknaghat township plan has failed to take off seven years after it was first proposed.

Vaknaghat township remains on paper only, said an official privy to the project, “as private land owners are unwilling to part with their land and the government has decided not to forcibly acquire land for commercial purposes.

Other than a residential area, a IT park was proposed at Vaknaghat, the foundation stone for which was laid in 2003.

With few private landowners willing to sell land for housing projects, laws restrict the government for transferring land to any commercial project. Prem Kumar, principal secretary revenue said, “no government land has been transferred for any housing project.” “Government land can only be transferred for setting up essential infrastructure, such as roads, schools, hospitals and other living amenities, he said.

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