Srinagar Master Plan, A Flawed Document

Srinagar Master Plan, A Flawed Document

31 July 2012
Rising Kashmir
Shafat Ahmad Reshi

Srinagar: Srinagar Master Plan is not a sound document and if some part of it has got any sense, the same has not been implemented in practice. Impact of bad planning on our environment needs to be understood and problems created by Master Plan in Srinagar need to be highlighted. It is due to lack of urban planning in Kashmir particularly in Srinagar which leads to environmental problems like water, air, land and noise pollution. Now there is a new pollution called radiation pollution. By land pollution, we mean two things. One is shrinking of water bodies to marshy lands and secondly garbage heaps are destroying the otherwise fertile land. It is lack of proper urban planning that we are converting our fertile agricultural land for housing use. This is possible only in absence of a comprehensive urban development planning. Srinagar was also called “SUN CITY” (Sri means Sun and nagar means city). It was only due to its rich resources and proper town planning qualities that Srinagar has earned this name given by great king Ashoka who founded Sun City at Purana dishitna now Pandrethan, which was a capital in 272 BC. It was due to lack of technical knowhow of urban planning only that a most important water body and life line of Dal Lake-the Nallahmar was converted to a road from Babademb at Khanyar to Veer at Chattabal. It was a very bad decision taken by the then government, but town planners of the time should have resisted it. By choking the out let of Dal, we allowed it to die and the result is in front of us today. By this we have not only choked the Dal but put other water bodies at risk too. It is because of this that once a blue lagoon of fresh water has now become a dirty bin and marshy land with all drains flowing into it in the shape of Babademb, which gave birth to different environmental problems. Dal needs immediate attention from all of us. No provision of a fish market in Srinagar Master Plan for Srinagar city has once again rendered our fish sellers especially women shop less. They are forced to sell their products on the foot path of busy Amira Kadal presenting a very ugly scene for our city and disturbing the pedestrian movement at the same time. The fisherwomen are forced to encroach upon the foot path of the bridge and their presence is unhygienic too. A comprehensive housing policy is absent in the Srinagar which has given birth to a haphazard growth of our city and construction of dwelling units in the length and breadth of Srinagar. Anybody can construct his house wherever he likes. No norms or building bye laws are followed while constructing residential or commercial structures. Almost all agriculture and horticulture land of Srinagar and its country side has been converted into a dense concrete jungle. There is no law in the state to stop this massacre of paddy fields. By this we are losing our precious land reserves at a very high speed and our future generation will definitely curse us. Our planners need to give a serious thought to this burning issue. At the same time it becomes very difficult for our municipal corporation and other civic bodies to collect garbage from all corners of the city. It becomes impossible for UEED to connect thousands of colonies in Srinagar to a perfect drainage system, which causes water, air as well as land pollution too. The garbage issue has taken a heavy tool in the shape of increasing dog population especially in Srinagar city and we are paying a high price for it. But at the same time we are ourselves responsible for it. Very often our kids become victims of dogs. Our municipal corporation lacks solid waste management like recycle, reduce and reuse policy. The number of dumping grounds has increased which pose a great threat to the environment. A new urban problem in the form of slums has added to the list and is a blot on our once green and clean city. This again is due to absence of proper urban planning in our city. Rag pickers and beggars feel at home in this paradise on earth and have turned our beautiful land into an ugly slum. Today we have more than 100 slums in our city alone. The impact of these slums on our physical and social environment is hazardous in the form of drug trafficking, flesh trade poor sanitary conditions. AIDS and other communicable diseases are spreading fast in our society besides other social problems. Traffic mess in Srinagar is another burning issue we are facing today. Frequent traffic jams are taking a heavy tool in the shape of air, noise pollution, besides, wastage of time and fuel. Our urban planners have failed to come up with a comprehensive traffic management policy like we have in other parts of the country. The present traffic mess in Srinagar is due to lack of urban planning and absence of traffic management group. We entrust this whole job to traffic police alone who are neither traffic and transportation planners nor traffic engineers. We need to understand meaning of the roads, road engineering, traffic engineering, road signs, markings, traffic signs and signals before coming to traffic regulation. Unfortunately our city lacks the fundamental element of traffic engineering and that is nothing but a bus stop. Vehicles mostly commercial ones stop at a crossing or in the middle of a road which is very bad in traffic regulation and is a major player in traffic mess. Constructing flyovers, widening of roads alone will not solve any problem. Huge amount of money is being spent but unfortunately without application of proper engineering designs, traffic surveys and inventories required for better traffic management system. The Chief Minister must appoint a traffic management team for both Srinagar as well as Jammu city comprising of a town planner, a traffic and transportation engineer, an engineer from roads and buildings department, RTO, SMC and traffic police to come up with three phase plan, that is, immediate action plan, short term plan and a long term comprehensive plan. The group should be accountable to the government and public as well. In my opinion water transport is the best alternative to present traffic mess and a viable solution too.