By Ajit Chak:┬áThe ministry of urban development government of India did designate Lucknow as a smart city but will Lucknow ever be able to live up to the tag in Uttar Pradesh? Even today if the comfort levels and smart planning of cities is compared then while Lucknow emerges as a large version of Barabanki despite being the state capital, the city of Allahabad takes the cake for better planning and better quality of life any day.
If there is a paradise on earth it is Allahabad, says media worker and response head of a leading paper in the city, Sanjive Bannerjea. Banerjea is not the only one who feels that choosing Lucknow as a smart city was a monumental blunder by the Government of India.
True Lucknow has a metro but it is ornamental and may only contribute to reduction of traffic in the city if it links up to the far flung areas of the city like linking Chowk with Etaunja and Bakhshi Ka Talab with Barabanki and Kakori. This move will help decongest the city and it any case it seems some one goofed up in the ministry and not choosing to develop Barabanki.
The city of Lucknow is today therefore plagued with the disease called the illegal building syndrome. This is because the engineers of the Lucknow Development authority connive with builders to ignore constructions that are blatantly illegal.
So residential property is being used for commercial purposes and while the LDA keeps issuing notices to builders it makes to real effort to seal or demolish the property. In fact the engineers encourage the builder to paint the property white which is a signal to the seniors in the department that the money or kickbacks have been received and an understanding reached. Therefore encroachments and illegal use of land are willingly ignored.
Builders are also taking on commercial power connections from the power corporation in residential buildings, the power corporation could easily snap the power but does not do so and issues commercial connections rather than imposing a severe penalty for residential power misuse. The LMC also taxes the illegal commercial building and all these issues should have been tackled when the city was declared a smart city. However nothing has moved so far.
The colonies that have seen major changes in land use are Nirala Nagar and Mahanagar and Indira Nagar and Gomti Nagar. Plots here are meant for a single residential unit and the water and power infrastructure are in place for the same. However these colonies have seen a mushroom growth of offices, pathologies, illegal schools, bank offices, hotels and guest houses and so on. Even radiology units in pathologies have been set up in residential areas with permission from the authorities. How this permission for a residential area was given is anyoneÔÇÖs guess.
Even today illegal flats and shops are mushrooming in Nirala Nagar and while court cases and FIRs are being lodged in colonies like Aliganj stringent action is yet to be taken against most house owners in Nirala Nagar and Mahanagar. Even illegal printing presses have begun operating in most residential colonies much to the detriment of the local environment.
The first thing a smart city needs is proper town planning. For a resident of Chandigarh it will be impossible to comprehend what is going on in the other smart cities of India and Lucknow probably provides the worst example. Flats are built in areas and sold where a normal car may not be able to enter forget fire protection norms and the fire brigade. So how were the flats allowed to come up.
For Lucknow to have proper town planning the urban development minister and the urban development ministry in Lucknow needs a crash course in town planning. Also all engineers in departments dealing with construction of buildings need to be held accountable for illegal buildings and illegal change in land use. Only then will Lucknow and similar cities move towards being a smart city.