Perils of a Perishing Beauty- Column
Located in the foothills of The Himalayas, Dehradun is a wonderful city where the nature’s beauty never ceases to amaze every eye that looks upon it. The marvelous panoramic views from Mussoorie Road , the stony river beds of Maldevta , the freshness of the air in Vasant Vihar and the best of all, the murmuring water in the seasonally fed rivers, all come together to make Dehradun the striking city.
But there is always more to this city, the youth of Dehradun is immensely empowered by the oodles of education they absorb from here. Dehradun is the city of the best schools across the country, and the growth in the number and quality of colleges and universities in the last 10 years is commendable.
Since the days of past, the two very prominent things that Dehradun is known for are its exquisite landscape and the quality education bestowing institutions and universities, and that is exactly what makes Dehradun one of the most peaceful and precious cities in India. The population growth in Dehradun can be credited to the simple yet amazing lifestyle of the city. Dehradun is a very fast growing city and therefore, the architects of the city keep on astonishing us with newer establishments and buildings. The year was 2015 and I had just gotten over with my class 12th board exams. I was eagerly looking forward to get into a decent college and start my journey of self-discovery in college. It was because of my profound affection for nature and my hometown, that despite the constant insistence of my friends and family, I had already decided to stay in Dehradun for at least the next three years of my life. So here I was, a literature enthusiast exploring college precincts in Dehradun. At that time, I used to think that the better the campus, the better the college; the campus quality and the availability of my preferred graduation course were the only two parameters of judgment set in my mind. I went to some of the best colleges of Dehradun for selection interviews and other screening processes and undoubtedly, I was mesmerized by the beauty of the colleges. The beautiful lawns, the aesthetics of the buildings, the location of the campuses and the environs, I adored it all, I wanted nothing more than to be a part of one of these universities, to spend most of my time in college in such a spectacular ambience.
Every college, I noticed, had its own distinctive feature that made it stand out from the rest, and in comparing these colleges just for the sake of satisfying my childish whims, I came to know of and understand something greater than myself, something that affects not just me, but everyone who is in love with this city for its simplicity. What I came to learn did not just change my outlook on modern developments, but on the whole concept of urbanization.
Dehradun which was once covered in dense forests today is a cluster of buildings.
Dehradun which was once a city with the most ferocious rivers is now a home to the Rispana and Bindal slums that are a result of encroachment and pollution of the river beds.
Areas like Clement Town, Prem Nagar, Rajpur and Sahastradhara used to be forested areas of the city which were completely unsettled. These areas were considered the ‘exteriors’ of the city. They worked as air filters of the city. However, today, with the construction of the Graphic Era University and Graphic Era Hill University, Clement town has emerged to be an extremely busy part of the city. The same goes for the Pacific Golf Estate at Sahastradhara Road, Uttranchal University in Prem Nagar and the copious number of cafes, restaurant, shopping destinations and obviously, the Pacific mall in Rajpur.
While I was living the golden days of my childhood I remember that, on our way to Sai Mandir or Sahastradhara, I used to wonder if we were going somewhere out of Dehradun because of the wide stretch of forests along the road. But today when you go to Sai Mandir, the only continuity you will find is the contentiousness of shops after shops.
What I realized is that most huge institutions, in order to save space of the main city, chose to construct in the outskirts of the city. Now, the outskirts being so different from the hustle and bustle of the city, were full of nature’s gifts and the constructors decided to overlook the effects of their cutting down the vegetation mercilessly.
Well, now we see the results, clement town is no longer the fresh air source that it once used to be. Today, it is polluted too. The forests are now less dense and they are abused severely by the students of the nearby schools and colleges. The seasonal river that once used to carry at least some water during monsoons, now lays dry in the middle of the Graphic Era University Campus. The Tons River which once used to carry more water than the Yamuna itself is now dry due to the construction of numerous buildings such as Law College Dehradun and Tula’s Institute.
Dehradun is the educational hub of India, that is a fact that is agreed upon by many, but what is the point of providing with education when you cannot provide students with a clean, peaceful environment? Though these colleges have taken numerous precautions to safeguard themselves from the nature’s unexpectedness, how do we know if we are still prepared enough to face the worst?
Graphic Era University’s campus is split in two by a seasonal river that flows all through it and the two portions of the campus are connected with little bridges built all along the river. Though today the river has become merely a stream and there hasn’t been any flowing water there for over three years, the precaution is an excellent step taken by the architects, and the pretty little red bridges are just a cherry on top of it.
Law College Dehradun is built directly over the Tons River and that requires the college to have a strong and deep foundation, reinforce its boundary and build the exterior of the building to be as strong as possible. The college authorities claim to have taken abundant and appropriate steps to ensure the safety of the campus, however I consider that keeping in mind the fact that the Tons river carries more water than Yamuna at the point where the two rivers meet below Kalsi, no matter the extent of precautions taken, the college will always stay at risk of flooding or even worse.
However, in normal situations and estimations, such an issue is unlikely to happen, but nature is erratic, and has proved over the time and again that no matter how stunning, bountiful and beneficial it is, it can be just as dreadful, tightfisted and treacherous if tampered with.
The initiative taken by these universities of not wasting land in the city is admirable and the best part is that the aim of most of these establishments is to educate the youth of Dehradun, however, I would also ask everyone even remotely connected to the theme of this column, what good is constructing for the sake of improving the city when the city in itself is perishing due to the tremendous constructions?
With a rapid increase in the urbanization, our city bears the burden of growth in terms of the number and sizes of apartments, hotels, malls, institutions, etc. Though in architectural terms, these changes and such development could be the best form of transformation that a city can go through, but what about the elements those make Dehradun what it is? What about the ecological and environmental changes that our city is going through just to make way for more and bigger buildings, to accommodate a little more people onto its lands, to ‘beautify’ the city with modern structures? How much is our city paying for its ‘development’ and how much are we, as its citizens, do to protect it from the deployment we ourselves put it through?