Shimla: Holding successive governments responsible for encouraging construction of unauthorized buildings in the hill resort, a guild of urban planners and architects, here, Thursday, lambasted the politics over retention policy, something that has played havoc with the city’s environment, civic space and heritage.
Speaking on behalf of the city architects, Rajiv Verma said, “it was election time again and the carrot of regularizing illegal buildings had been dangled again by putting out a draft of proposed policy change under which as much as 99 percent of deviation for approved plans is intended to be regularized.”
“It is time responsible citizens had a say in town planning for permitting so much deviation would leave no space to access residential localities, laying of sewerage and water service lines and provide breathing space between buildings where people are to reside,” said Verma.
Should a natural calamity strike, it would be catastrophic for urban planning is in a mess and there are localities in the city where there is no access to even retract the dead, he said.
He said that till 1990, nobody in the city dared to construct building without approved plans but to provide civic services to house owners who had constructed on the periphery of the town, the government first brought forward a retention policy in 1997.
Since then six such policies have regularized building made against approved plans, which have ruined the city planning completely, he added. For a small city like Shimla, sometimes it takes 2 hours to cross it from one end to the other, he claimed.
Without naming any government or political party Verma said, “the politics of retention policy needs to be ended from political party manifestos for politicians keep the issue alive from one election to another, only for votes.”
Law abiding citizens, who construct within the approved maps he said, are being punished for respecting the law and those violating it are benefitting by getting unapproved structures regularized.
He said that the architects intended to contribute towards city planning firstly by recording residents’ acceptance or rejection of the proposed changes as spelled out in the draft policy paper.
A signature campaign in the city for those for and against was launched on the occasion that would be submitted as part of objections invited the country and town planning department to the proposed changes to be made.