Sharpening uptown-downtown divide?
‘New Gateway Project, Babul Iqbal, Should Not Ghettoize Old City’
Srinagar, Oct 22: With the government yet to build any entry points into 2000-year-old downtown city on the main highways in Kashmir valley, particularly on Jammu-Srinagar highway, the decision to come up with a stone gate near Babdemb area is seen by experts as a project completely out of place and fraught with danger of further ghettoization of old city.
The government this year sanctioned Rs 1.20 crore for an entry gate, likely to be called Babul Iqbal, at Babdemb. Minister for Rural Development and Panchayats Ali Muhammad Sagar, who represents the constituency where the gate is being constructed, said the project was part of the government initiative to “restore pristine glory of old city”. The government also plans to renovate adjacent historical monuments.
The project, however, has come under a sharp criticism from experts engaged in city planning and conservation of sites in the city.
“Architecturally, it is wrongly located. The gateway, like in other major cities, should form a frame with its arching top. Nowhere across the globe one finds a historic city gateway with one side opening to a swamp and another to a row of shops,” said a senior architect, preferring not to be named.
According to experts, historically there is no relevance of the place to have a gate for downtown Srinagar. “Historically, only gateways to Srinagar city were waterways. So preferably any old wooden bridge could have acted as a gateway to old city. But there were some surface entry points to downtown Srinagar like Gawkadal or the Gousia shrine. What confuses architects about the new project is whether the gateway is being constructed on the basis of the historical relevance of the location,” said the senior architect adding the gateway has no correlation with the surrounding area and also lacks idea of framing.
“Even Nallah Mar, old river way, could act as gateway but for that Salam Shah Naqshbandhi’s old residence could serve as an entry point.”
Srinagar city was never a planned one but developed organically on the banks of river Jhelum. Over a period of time the densely populated area came to be known as old city. The new gateway project also has a potential to ghettoize the city further as it will sharpen the uptown and downtown divide, according to experts.
“The gateway might provide a landmark to draw distinction between those living inside the gateway and outside it. There are chances of divisive language propping up around it. But what should bother us is that it will divide the city historically. Otherwise, the city should reflect a continuum of time and space,” said a sociologist from Kashmir University.
Last year also, the city underwent a “harsh” treatment when solid stone rather than green roundabouts were installed at many crossroads across its length and breadth. “It was completely out of sync with the downtown city, which is a mass of concrete itself, to have stone installation at the centre of roundabouts. Greener and see-through roundabouts would have not only provided a green lung but also made driving safe and easy,” said the architect.
The new gateway project should not be like stone roundabouts but should justify its purpose. “Let the government first have a gateway on highway for tourists to give them a sense of Srinagar city rather than hasty stone gateway at the centre of the city,” said an architect.
Lastupdate on : Sat, 22 Oct 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 22 Oct 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 23 Oct 2011 00:00:00 IST
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