The warnings of experts and protests by Green activists have failed to stop the Delhi Government and the Delhi Development Authority from going ahead with the construction of the Commonwealth Games village on the Yamuna floodplains.
In an interview to CNN-IBN, Delhi's Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit gives her reasons for rejecting these protests and shares her vision to develop the Capital as an international city. Excerpts:
Jhoomur Bose: Delhi is finally going to become a city at par with other international cities, particularly with all development projects that are planned in view of the Commonwealth Games 2010. How do you see Delhi growing and what is your vision for Delhi in view of the Commonwealth Games 2010?
Well, my vision for the past nine years, ever since I got the opportunity to become the Chief Minister of the state has always been that this city should be second to no other city. In fact, Delhi should be Delhi itself, with all its heritage, all its modernity all its educational institutions, health-care etc.
And in these nine past years, we have moved many steps forward. There may not have been the speed that many others would have liked us to go with, but considering the fact that 5 lakh people come here every year, I think we have done - I would say - fairly well; we manage to cope up with it.
Nobody dies of hunger, nobody dies of lack of water and you may not get power for a couple of hours, but it's not through days or, you know, anything like that. So it's moving forward, it requires lot of hard work, lots of planning.
Multiple city authorities do hamper our growth because, you know, sometimes you don't know what the right finger is doing and the left one is thinking of something else. These projects are going on. But I think we have done well.
Now, this time when we have started these projects for housing for the marginalised section - those who do not get housing, who live in shanties, who live in unauthorised colonies - I think that will really make it move forward. And we plan in the next three, four, five years to make 4 lakh houses, dwelling houses.
JB: We have also heard that certain kind of structures are being planned in terms of rehabilitating people and development of the Yamuna with view of the Commonwealth Games. Could you tell us more about that.
No, you see, this housing is not being done only for Commonwealth Games. Anything we do for the Commonwealth Games, it's a good excuse for us to, you know, motivate us. But it's a legacy for Delhi, you know. So when I look at the Commonwealth Games, for me it's a legacy, which will, may have taken longer, but will be pleasant, and Delhi will become, I am sure in the next four, three-four years, or may be 5 years, Delhi will really become a great city, really a great city.
JB:We have two years before the games and we have some grand things and visions. If you could just enumerate a little what has been planned and do you think we will able to keep up with the time lines - October 2010?
No, I think the grandeur will come later, when there will be just about a year or 16 months before. But the basics, like the stadium being refurbished or the village being made or the convention center being made, all that work has already started and with today's technology...
And in India, you know - about the famous Indian weddings, you won't find a thing there two hours before, and then suddenly the whole thing will spring up like a fairyland - we will do that, when we acquire a challenge, we Indians do live up to it. And I feel really confident we will do it. We will make it the best games.
JB: What are all these little noises that we are hearing here, you know, how it is, ecology versus development, Yamuna...
Yes, it goes on. You see, my question to ecologists is only one simple one. For instance, the Yamuna has 10,000 hectares of land around it. Now if it has 10,000 hectares of land around it, how come in a city like Delhi - growing - how can you just waste that 10,000 hectares of land?
And tell me, any other city in the world, which has not developed its riverbanks? Yes, do it judiciously, plan it out. Make enough adequate green, see that the water remains clean... But development has to take place.
And then another thing happens, all these ecologists wake to a situation when it's already through. Nobody spoke of the Akshardham temple, and when the Akshardham temple was made, all the rules and all were adhered to, every clearance was taken.
Similarly, the games village, every clearance has been taken, whoever it may be the ecology department, environment department and so on and so forth. But if you don't do it then, and do it when the thing is on, then I think there is more politics in it then genuineness.