LUCKNOW: Varanasi has attained the dubious distinction of housing maximum illegal colonies in the state, according to April, 2019 data of UP housing and urban department.
Data accessed by TOI states Varanasi houses 366 illegally developed housing colonies, which is almost 10% of 3,000 illegal colonies in the state. Housing department officials said unbridled construction of colonies has pushed Varanasi to saturation point. The situation, not surprisingly, has put a question mark on planned development of one of the oldest cities in the world. “Notices have been issued to all colonies,” said a senior official in the housing department.
Even Ghaziabad, which is in the National Capital Region stands second in the hall of shame. According to housing department records, Ghaziabad houses 321 illegally constructed colonies. Records show Ghaziabad Development Authority is yet to send notice to any of these colonies. Ghaziabad is followed by Meerut, which is also close to the national capital and has 308 illegal colonies. Notices under UP Housing and Urban Planning Act, 1973, have been sent to these Meerut colonies.
Likewise, UP’s state capital, Lucknow, houses 183 illegally constructed colonies, and notices have been sent to only 89 colonies by Lucknow Development Authority (LDA). Among other cities, Agra has 224 illegal colonies, Aligarh 165, Bareilly 186, Mathura 220 and Saharanpur has 166 colonies. Illegal colonies are mushrooming despite Allahabad High Court order of 2012 that directed the state government to check growth of illegal colonies and finalise guidelines. Last year, the housing department decided to confiscate assets of developers and lodge FIRs against them. The department had, in fact, issued an order to vice-chairmen of development authorities, district magistrates and housing commissioner. The order stated income from sale of assets of errant realtors would be used to develop civic amenities in unauthorized colonies. Housing department sources said the state government decided to prepare data on existing colonies with help of Remote Sensing Application Centre and submit a report. Sources said the department also devised an action plan that included dividing unauthorized areas into zones under the charge of a nodal officer, who would be held accountable if he fails to check illegal growth in future.
In July 2017, the state government gave a statement in UP assembly that it was considering legalizing illegal colonies and provide them basic civic amenities.