February 28th, 2005
I arrived in Delhi on February 15th, where I started to read books and
papers related to the project. On February 18th, I leaved Delhi to Gairsain to
meet some local actors. We came back on February 21st. I started to compile
information on the project in the following report. This report being only a one-
month achievement I would highly appreciate your indulgence on the missing
data. Indeed, its primary objective is only to help you understand the context of
the project. It is a literature study.
Community Based Comprehensive Planning for a Capital
Township in Gairsain
Uttaranchal is a new hill state, created since November 9th, 2000. At that
time, it has been decided to make Dehradun the interim capital.
However, even before the demand for a separate hill state1, Gairsain, the
alternative way out, was widely accepted as the state capital by the local
communities. In fact Gairsain is located in the center of the state and then more
easily accessible by the majority of the hills population.
Probably because Dehradun is situated in the plain regions, more
urbanized and close by Delhi (the Indian power center), the politics have
preferred choosing Dehradun as the interim capital. Nevertheless, in the same
time, they have run the risk of moving away the local power from the hills
What we mainly notice nowadays, is if the plain localities have an
economic development, the local development of the hills remains in sleep. This
is probably the main reason why since few years, the hills population mobilizes
itself to inform the politics on theirs wishes of having Gairsain as the permanent
Uttaranchal was carved out of Uttar Pradesh after a long struggle of Uttaranchali people.
If the plain regions continue to be the principle economic center of
attraction, the effects on the whole Uttaranchal will be dramatics and probably
irreversible. In fact, the consequence of this attraction will be the migration of the
poor around the urban centers. For e.g. that can be translated by:
The increase in the urban centers of the slums; the healthy and sanitary
problems; the violence, crime and insecurity feeling; the pollution…
The decrease in the hill land of the economic activities; of the number of
The loss of identity and traditional habits…
The degradation of the life conditions especially for the migrants.
Besides, parts of those effects have been already noticed in Dehradun.
Uttaranchal is made of 13 districts (Almora, Nainital, Pithoragarh,
Chamoli, Derhadun, Pauri, Uttarkashi, Terhi, Udham Singh Nagar,
Bageshwar, Rudrapayag, Maridwar and Champawat).
The 2001 Census lists the population of the region at 8 479,562 of
which 80 per cent is hilly and 20 per cent is plain land2.
The total geographical area of Uttaranchal is 53,331 square
The topography is characterized by deep valleys, high peaks and
wide variety of vegetation due to rapid changes climate resulting from
The importance of forests
Forests form the major land use of Uttaranchal at 64 per cent
total area and it play a pivotal role both in the ecology and the
economy of the region.
Forests cover the top of most ridges in the Himalayas, thus
preventing erosion. The major source of energy for cooking and
home heating is still fuelwood, which is procured from forests. A
widespread dependence on forests for grass (seasonally) and leaf
fodder (in winters) is also seen.
In addition, leaf litter from the forest is necessary for making
compost, which is widely used by the farmers for improving the soil
State of Environment Report for Uttaranchal, p119, November2004.
Agriculture (including forestry) is the mainstay of the economy
of Uttaranchal. Around 75 per cent of the state population depends
on agriculture for its livelihood3.
Agriculture practices can contribute to either sustaining the
environment and enhancing the diversity, or towards its degradation
and the loss of diversity. In fact, the forest is intimately linked with
agriculture because the hills population has developed a complex
farming system sustained with organics matter nutrients derived
from the forests. Grace of this organic agriculture, Uttaranchal can
provide a chemical-free food and that could be a great asset for the
The majority of the farmers of Uttaranchal are owner-
cultivators. Tenant farming and sharecropping is rare. Landing
holdings are small, and the zamindari system of big landholders is
limited to the plains.
Crops are rotated regularly in traditional Uttaranchal
agriculture to make full use of the land, raise diverse crops, as well as
regenerate the soil’s fertility.
The productivity of conventional agriculture in Uttaranchal is
low, and the state needs to look at a new ways of increasing not just
productivity, but also agricultural income (e.g. horticulture,
Uttaranchal is the source of water for most northern India.
However, water is scarce for the local populations both for drinking
water and domestic use as well as for agricultural irrigation.
This can be explained by:
The enclosures of the forests by the British. The
consequence of reservation of forests was that people
could no more create settlements in areas with adequate
Because the settlements are far from the water springs, it
costs a lot to water supply villages.
The nature of the ground and the physical shaping of
Uttaranchal increase the difficulties for the development
of water supply and irrigation facilities.
45 % of the working population is directly engaged in agriculture. State of Environment Report for
Uttaranchal, p119, November2004.
Uttaranchal has tremendous potential for generating energy
especially for micro-hydel projects, solar energy, wind energy…
Those alternatives of energy supplies are sadly expensive.
Nevertheless, all has to be done and is under the control of the state
The state government is interested in developing private project
of energy supply. The consequence will be an increase of the energy
prices and thus have a bad impact on the hills population, which
already have difficulties to get cash.
We can expect that Uttaranchal and its neighborhood find a
deal to meet Uttaranchal’s need of power that will also generate
income by supplying power to the other parts of the country.
Because of the mineral wealth in the region, one of the
dominant industries in the state has been mining. However, in the
recent years, environmental awareness has led to numerous strong
movements against overexploitation of minerals.
We have to define another way to develop the regions.
Uttaranchal is the most important state for pilgrimage in India.
Pilgrimage draws the largest number of people to the State and will
continue to predominate. But this has also the effect to increase the
pollution in the area around pilgrimage and the benefits of this
tourism only partially reach the local communities.
Because of his huge tourism potential, Uttaranchal can develop
an ecotourism that maintain the ecosystem and offers resources for
the local communities (p 285,Uttaranchal Vision and action Programme).
Transport is a real issue in Uttaranchal. Because of its shaping,
the links between villages are difficult to provide…
Developing conventional transports may cause forest
destruction as well as damage the mountain environment leading to
displacement of both people and wildlife. In addition, development
of conventional transport system results in the increasing use of non-
renewable energy resources and air pollution.
The state needs to look at unconventional modes of transport
Gairsain and its areas
Gairsain is located in the Chamoli District and at an altitude of 1610 m.
It is nearly the geographical centre of Uttaranchal to cater Kumanon and
Garhwal divisions and will be easily accessible to the people of hills.
Look at p.23 in State of environment report For Uttaranchal.
Uttaranchal is the only state to have a Ministry for Disaster
Local Institutions – Urban and Rural
Urban area Municipalities (corporation or council)
Nagar Palika Parishads
Activists/ Public Institutions/Political Parties
Public Union on Civil Liberties Uttaranchal (PUCL)
The Uttaranchal State branch of the PUCL was inaugurated on
March 9, 2002 at Dehradun. It aims to defend civil liberties and
Uttarakhand Mahila Manch
It is a group of women who earlier were at the forefront and
pushing the idea of Uttaranchal as a separate state. Women of
Uttaranchal played a primary and important role for the formation
of a separate state.
Uttarakhand Sanyukt Sangarsh Morcha
A group working on exploring socio-cultural identity of the state
and also exploring and initiating a dialogue from a sociocultural
angle with regard to Gairsain as the potential capital of
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)
Uttarakhand Kranti Dal (UKD)
Institutions Related to Forest
The distribution of forests under major legal classifications:
The area under Reserved Forests is 69.12 per cent. Reserve forest are
under direct control of State forest Department.
The area under Civil Soyam is 18 per cent. Civil Soyam are generally
located within village boundaries and were informally managed by
residents (the usufruct of the land belongs to the inhabitants),
although, formally fall under the control of revenue department.
The area under Van Panchayats is 11 per cent. The Van Panchayat are
under the revenue department for administrative purpose and the
forest department has the responsibility for the technical matters.
FD (Forest Department)
State level. Upper instance. Manage reserve.
There is a poor interaction between FD and local communities.
Thus, it will be easy to justify that FD has to be located in the hills
(e.g. FD should be closer from the communities and thus it will help
to regulate conflicts)
Van Panchayats are institutions, which aim at developing
people’s participation in forest management.
The distribution of forests under Van Panchayats is 11 percent.
There are 6,777 Van Panchayats in Uttaranchal managing 5,241sq.km
Factors helping the satisfactory functioning of Van Panchayats
include leadership quality of the sarpanch, availability of funds,
commitment on the part of villagers, proximity of villages to
reserved forests, total area and quality of panchayati forest. Single-
village Van Panchayats do much better than multi-village
CCAs ( Community Conserved Forest Areas)
They are diverse forests, which are maintained and conserved
by the people themselves.
Village Forest committees can institute and defend suits,
regulate grazing and admission of cattle…
Found because of JFM process.
Biodiversity Management Committees
National level. They have only right to decide what is to be
done with documentation.
Capital city reflects the personality of a state and leaves an imprint of the
age to which it belong. Capital cities are the mirrors reflecting the administrative,
political, cultural, economic and spatial development of the state. Accordingly, it
should be reflected in their planning and development mechanism. Capital cities
not only cater to the needs of the inhabitants they have but are also required to
provide for activities closely related to the governance of a much larger area
called the state4.
The aim of the project is to bring out feasibility of a capital township in
Gairsain. With community partnership, we will plan a sustainable regional
capital, which will have to provide the local needs of infrastructure and services.
Then, we will think about issues of governance, which is the exercise of
legitimate political power, implementation of policies and programme that are
equitable, transparent, non discriminatory, socially sensitive, participatory and
accountable to the people at large5.
We have to define modalities of the future capital. What type of capital is
required. That must be developed.
Concept of Capital Region? It will be more a symbolic capital, which aims
to protect and defend the environment. It will not be a merely administrative
capital. The objective of the project is to develop local institutions more than
bringing new institutions. The local development would be a consequence of
power increase of the local institutions.
We desire to avoid a heavy influx of population in Gairsain. Then, we
looking for satellite villages, which could share required settlements.
In fine, we will also analyze why Gairsain is a better capital than
National Town and Country Planners Congress, Development of Hills Capitals, 2003. Strategy for
planning and development of hills capitals. S.C. Jauhari, p152.
National Town and Country Planners Congress, Development of Hills Capitals, 2003, p 243.
1. Prepare a pilot scheme of what the capital should be, which aims at
sustaining the debate with the local communities.
Our idea on the future capital is far from the growing up of
Gairsain as an urban center. In fact, Uttaranchal has the possibility of
demonstrating a new planned urbanization with the creation of multiple
smaller urban centers rather than mega polis.
We want to plan a regional capital where the capital settlements,
which are required to be in the hills, are established in four different
villages (Gairsain, Khirsoo, Thalisain, Abidabri)6.
How did we choose those locations? We chose those potential
villages because they have free land, which can be used for building
housings and settlements.
We have to define which institutions are necessary in the hills and
decide the place it can be the more efficient. For example, Abidabri is the
closer from tourist activities, then it could be a good way out to set up
Tourism institutions in this village. In the same way, Kirshoo is located,
where there are most of the forest conflicts, and then we could set up
Forest Department in this place.
2. Meet the local stakeholders. Discuss on the perspectives of capital
3. First reporting of new information we get.
4. Thinking of an adequate planning to limit disasters like earthquakes,
Problems of development of hill town7
Major problems hills towns face are as follow:
The depletion of forest cover
Rearrangement of natural slopes
Scarcity of potable water
Pollution of water and soil
Despoliation of areas of natural beauty and historical importance
The usable urban space is particularly limited.
Since capital planning will involve availability of land, the following places have been seen as having
such kind of lands which are available.
National Town and Country Planners Congress, Development of Hills Capitals, p 165