All You Should Know About Lucknow's Kukrail Demolition Drive And Yogi Government's Future Plans For The Area

Swarajya Staff

Jun 21, 2024, 06:09 PM | Updated 06:41 PM IST

Anti-encroachment drive near  Kukrail River in Lucknow
Anti-encroachment drive near Kukrail River in Lucknow
  • Lucknow's largest anti-encroachment drive concludes, clearing 25 acres of land housing 1,800 illegal structures to revive the Kukrail River.
  • With the demolition of last structures in the Akbarnagar area of Lucknow on Wednesday (19 June), which once housed 1,800 illegal structures, nearly 25 acres of land, was completely vacated on government orders.

    This concluded, what has been the largest anti-encroachment drive in Lucknow, clearing structures built between the barrage on Faizabad Road and the Kukrail River in the city.

    The efforts were made to reclaim the river banks of the Kukrail River and revive the ailing water body. The 28-kilometre-long river originates from Asti village in Bakshi Ka Talab, Lucknow, before merging into the Gomti River.

    The project aims to restore the river's natural flow and health, which have been damaged by human activities, and transform its surroundings into an eco-tourism hub as per the directives of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.

    The Demolition Drive

    Following the objective of increasing green cover and preserving water bodies, Adityanath ordered a survey of the region, which reportedly uncovered “illegal, extensive construction” on the river land.

    Supported by Supreme Court’s order, the state administration observed that the river had been reduced to a drain due to encroachments by land mafias.

    Locals claimed that the support of previous governments provided basic facilities such as electricity, roads, and water, to the people who moved to Akbarnagar years ago. However, the region has always been plagued by illegal expansions, and disputes.

    According to government statements, the expansion also violated environmental norms, with multi-storey residential and commercial structures reportedly built using forged documents.

    Noting this, the administration under Adityanath ordered a demolition campaign, which began in December 2023.

    The residents, mostly Muslims who make up the dominant population, moved the Allahabad High Court, which issued a stay until 4 March 2024.

    On 6 March, the High Court allowed the demolition to proceed but ordered the LDA to offer easy installment options to displaced residents. The residents then appealed to the Supreme Court, which upheld the High Court’s decision in May.

    With continuous challenges of land contestations, political disputes, legal battles, rumours, and protests, the state continued to pursue all legal cases from the High Court to the Supreme Court, to ensure the process was upheld.

    The demolition began in Phase-2 of Akbarnagar, moved to Phase-1, and finally concluded with reclaiming all of the encroached river banks on 19 June.

    The Coming Of The Settlements, And The Rehabilitation

    With few establishments initially, as the capital city grew in the 1990s, Akbarnagar rapidly expanded into a settlement and in the last three decades, over 2,000 families had come up in the locality.

    The majority is working class population, however, not only homes but also shops, factories, places of worship, sprung up illegally.

    The houses and workshops — predominantly furniture and fabricators, disposed of their waste into the water body, adding to its degradation.

    “The mafia, which had protection during the Samajwadi Party regime, built buildings and showrooms between the Kukrail river and a dam from 2012 to 2017. Also, illegal colonies were built with the help of forged documents even as residential and commercial construction is not possible in the area,” the government statement read.

    The area, is approximately 5 km from Hazratganj, the city centre and several other large settlements of Lucknow.

    For years, locals have perceived it as a degraded and shady area, filled with filth, and see this as an opportunity for its residents to be lifted from the margins.

    While demolitions pose ethical dilemmas, with disruption of commerce that flourished in the area, the government is providing proper rehabilitation to those affected.

    The affected residents were relocated to nearly 1,800 Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) homes in Vasant Kunj, situated nearly 10 km from their previous habitat.

    Revival Plans For The River And Surroundings

    The clearance of over 10 lakh square feet of land will reclaim the river's natural flow.

    According to environmentalists in the city, the water body, which can support aquatic life, has been long affected by filth entering through 50 drains from homes along its course.

    Uttar Pradesh Jal Nigam is identifying these drains and sewer lines that pollute the stream.

    The focus is now on the overall development of the area, with a budget of Rs 68 crore allocated for riverfront.

    The project will begin from the river's origin in Dashauli village near Bakshi Ka Talab. Many other initiatives under the urban development ministry will be given shape with this development.

    The state has designated a 50-metre area along the banks as a 'floodplain', to safeguard the riverbanks from any illegal construction again. A series of ponds in the area will be revived to ensure water availability for the river throughout the year

    Creating an eco-tourism hub, there are plans for country's first night safari at Kukrail and relocating the zoo there, while the riverfront includes creating parks, with natural vegetation on the floodplains on both sides of the river.

    Following this initiative, the Yogi Adityanath government has proposed similar actions across Uttar Pradesh to liberate river basins and water bodies from encroachers.

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