Srinagar City is having same old narrow lanes, inundated even with moderate rainfall, choked drains, nauseating traffic and poor City plan. Sumera B. Reshi writes how it is setting a tough challenge for us in future to retain it as habitable city.
Srinagar: Today cities are expanding every day, almost each hour and Srinagar is not an exception. Over the past two decades, Srinagar has witnessed enormous growth like a giant octopus spreading its tentacles everywhere blindly.
The lush green city of Srinagar is now a concrete jungle and it has lost it natural picturesque which was once world famous to the modern architecture and construction. Like other famous cities, Srinagar is also the hub of activities in the Jammu & Kashmir.
The summer capital is also increasing in size and inviting immigrants from outside the state. And the extraordinary growth in population and construction has resulted in massive urbanization which has posed serious implications on its resources. This growth is not positive or sustainable and inadequate city planning has led to land degradation.
Besides, unplanned mushroom growth of construction sites for residential and commercial purposes have wreak havoc on Srinagar. In an era when we have metros, motorable roads, modern infrastructure, Srinagar city is having same old narrow lanes, inundated even with moderate rainfall, choked drains, nauseating traffic and poor city plan.
Today, Srinagar city has been listed one among the filthiest and polluted city India according to a report published on 5th May 2017 in media.
City or urban plan is the way cities are shaped in order to best connect the local populations with their environments. City planners bring together architecture, public space, sustainability, social equity, transportation, and other aspects of city life to create a space that intentionally addresses each issue.
There are nine best cities for city plan around the world and these cities are Singapore, Zurich, Switzerland, Copenhagen, Denmark, Seoul, South Korea, Amsterdam, Netherlands, Washington, D.C., USA, Düsseldorf, Germany, Machu Picchu, Peru, Chandigarh. But where does Srinagar exist?
Unfortunately we don’t have a good urban plan in place in entire Jammu and Kashmir. It is obvious that the wrong urban planning can create spaces that make residents feel unsafe and it can have very serious consequences.
Today, we are blindly imitating the architectural styles of other foreign cities. What works for them certainly does not work for us. We hardly see trees which once provide the cooling effect and fight the environmental challenges to keep our city cool and green.
This is what we are witnessing in Srinagar. The times have changed, so have people, their tastes and life style, however, Srinagar has the same space – blocked and congested. Lot more has changed but not the fate of Srinagar.
It has the same old superfluous city plan and get up. There is no demarcation for residential and commercial areas.
It is sandwich in one area. People are themselves deciding where to transact business and where to live without even giving heed to the consequences nor do the authorities care for the city plan.
Thus, one can see it’s a jumble of everything. And none takes the notice of all this. We have become so selfish and blind that we have encroached the pavements as well without considering its fallouts.
Take a look at downtown, especially both sides of Nalamar road, survey Dal Lake and other small water bodies in Buchpora Elahibagh area.
It’s a heart wrenching sight. People have constructed their houses on the natural water bodies by encroaching them, thus blocking the path of water and when it rains heavily, they all start blaming the authorities, beating their chests.
To meet our selfish goals, we have lost all the respect to local water bodies, and natural barriers and vested interests are often in a hurry market new urban zones and start making money out leaving holistic urban planning approaches.
Further, one more dimension of this unruly city plan is the faulty traffic signals which hardly function or don’t function at all.
Then consider the size of buses. Are these buses worth travel? I would say no because of their size and the rush of people. We spent most of our time travelling within the city. Our transport system is in complete disarray and works like a 100 years old swing which hardly moves.
For instance, Amsterdam shines. Only 22 per cent of all trips within the city are done by car, compared to 48 per cent by bike – far outpacing other major European cities. The result is a remarkably pollution-free and easily navigable downtown.
On the contrary, transport system across the valley is dismal and chaotic and most frenzy department which frustrates all. All these facts have plagued Srinagar and it has lost its aesthetic beauty for which it was once so famous that its beauty mesmerized Sir Walter Lawrence.
We all have dismayed Srinagar to a level that its parts are ailing rather dying slowly. The fate of Aanchar Lake is pathetic and tragic. The unabated expansion of the Srinagar city created by the haphazard and unrestricted growth have aggravated irregular and chaotic development of residential, industrial and commercial areas resulting in destruction and loss of productive agriculture and horticulture land, spatial and ecological destruction of life supporting wetlands, world famous lakes, traffic bottle necks, slums, polluted environment experienced by the residents of the city.
Yet we are least concerned. Do we ever consider out weird acts? Do we ever accept out pitfalls? No and never. Our only weapon is to blame the other party and the other party blames us. In this act of blames and counter-blames, Srinagar is bearing the brunt. Once the most beautiful city is an epitome of filth and dirt today.
It is hogwash to compare the world famous cities with Srinagar. As a matter of fact, we the people of J&K fail before Chandigarh which has been voted by the BBC as the most perfect city in the world and not only the cleanest one.
Its smart city planning has incorporated elements of social spaces with the environmental aesthetic, making it a city of parks for all socio-economic groups, a bastion of calm and meditative architecture and a perfect grid-structured road network that anticipated the future growth of vehicular traffic. These features make Chandigarh highly livable and India’s most prosperous city.
As a result of all these factors cities do not seem to be planned as there is a huge gap in what we plan and what we implement. Additionally, the pace with which implementation is done is not at par with the city population growth. This leads to development of unplanned settlements. And to add to the chaos are our habits- littering, bad driving sense and no parking sense etc.
It is high time to revise urban plan before Srinagar becomes a complete mess or inhabitable.