When Shahr-e-Khaas development project vanished in thin air
THE description of Srinagar at the end of 19th century recorded by Sir Walter R Lawrence the then settlement commissioner of Kashmir, in his book The Valley of Kashmir is stated as: “Srinagar, the Sun of the blessed City, also known to the cultivators of the valley as Kashmir became the capital of Kashmir about A.D. 960.
Those days the City was confined more to the banks or river Jhelum alone.
“The City consists of 22,448 houses crowded together in utter confusion on either side of the Jhelum river, which winds through Srinagar with an average width of about 3 miles and a breadth of about one and a half miles on either side of the river, but the greater part of the city lies in the right bank,” Sir Lawrence states.
But then despite being densely populated, the old City or Shahr-e-Khaas was often neglected by successive rulers.
Finally in view of the centuries of neglect of the Shahr-e-Khaas where the population per unit area exceeded even that of Kolkata and Mumbai’s dense areas, the then government woke up.
In 1976, a project for improvement of road communication system in the old City was launched. Following some hiccups, the same had to be revised in 1981 vide as Administrative Approval G.O. No.668-UD of 1981 dated 13.10.1981.
The main components of the project were:
1. Acquisition and land development.
a. Acquisition of land and structures.
b. Construction of roads and spot treatment works.
2. Construction of revenue yielding assets (shops for rehabilitation of dislocated shopkeepers and creation of floor space area for offices.
3. Construction of new bridges/ reconstruction of old bridges these included Habbakadal, Biscoe Bridge near Fateh Kadal, Zainakadal, Aalikadal, Nawakadal, Safakadal, Syed Mansoor Sahib Bridge, Daresh Kadal, Saidpora Idgah, Mirza Afzal Begh Bridge, Mirza Akmal bridge on Nallah Amir Khan, Baba Daud Khaki bridge etc.
4. Purchase of land for development of housing colonies for rehabilitation of dislocated families of the Circular Road Project.
5. Reclamation of Nazool lands.
The development of core area envisaged a composite plan of developing roads, bridges, lanes, drains, playgrounds, social centers, libraries, fire stations, slaughter houses, ration depots, construction of Ghats and streetlighting etc. There was also a plan to develop some places of interest for tourists in the old City. But all this remained more in papers alone.
But then most of these plans didn’t pick up. Then there was again a hope when the Master Plan 2021 recommended removal of deficiencies in physical and social infrastructure including community facilities like play grounds, parks etc in Shahr-e-Khaas.
Appalling condition of the core area in respect of inadequacies of roads, bridges, lanes, sewerage, drainage, bus stands, etc have been cited in the Master Plan.
But the implementations are still awaited even though the half of the Master Plan period is over while the mess is furthering. Examples on this front are many. The newly come up unplanned colonies like Lal Bazar, Buchpora etc that have come up in the last 40 years, lack physical and social infrastructure. Due to growing population, they are turning into slums which lack proper drainage, sewerage facilities. Many vital links like Bachpora – Naseem Bagh road listed to be widened to 60 ft are still pending.
The government needs to act fast to save Shahr-e-Khaas before it will be too late because I have been a witness to how development of the City gets affected due to political interference.
Er Muhammad Ashraf Fazili FIE, CEng(I)
Chief Engineer (Retd.)
(The ideas expressed are author’s own)
Lastupdate on : Sun, 16 Jan 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sun, 16 Jan 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Mon, 17 Jan 2011 00:00:00 IST
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