VANDALISATION OF JHELUM IN FULL SWING

UNDER-CONSTRUCTION SKEWED BRIDGE TAKES SHEEN OFF JHELUM, THE BUND

ARIF SHAFI WANI

Srinagar, Dec 26: In blatant violation of environmental norms and public outcry, construction of Skewed bridge across river Jhelum here is going on at a full swing. 
The under-construction bridge has taken sheen off the Jhelum and The Bund— a heritage walkway developed by British. Notwithstanding massive outcry by concerned environmentalists, engineers and civil society groups, Government has expedited work on the controversial bridge which has marred beauty of Jhelum and The Bund.
Estimated at Rs 10 crore, work on the 170-meter Bridge from Convent crossing to General Post Office (GPO) on The Bund, started in May this year. It is being constructed by the Jammu and Kashmir Projects Construction Corporation (JKPCC). As the Convent Crossing and the GPO do not fall in a straight line, the bridge will come up as a skewed concrete monstrous structure.
An on-the-spot assessment revealed that pilling work from the Convent crossing site is being undertaken near two towering Chinars in violation of norms. According to experts, there should be no construction within 50 metres around a Chinar tree to prevent damage to it.
From The Bund side, JKPCC workers are undertaking massive pilling works affecting serene beauty of the spot.
Deafening sound of excavators and mixers, coupled with flow of unending number of tippers have affected serene environs of The Bund.
“The Skewed bridge is in contravention of Master Plan and environmental norms. The Government did not take stakeholders and concerned departments on board before starting the construction. Before construction of any project particularly bridges, Environment Impact Assessment and traffic flow studies have to be undertaken. But in case of Skewed Bridge, all norms were flouted,” a senior official privy to the issue told Greater Kashmir. 
“In view of ever-growing public outcry, JKPCC has expedited work on the bridge. After completion, this bridge will add to the traffic congestion in the summer capital particularly in Residency Road and Rajbagh,” he said. 
A number of heritage buildings mostly housing traditional Kashmiri handicrafts are situated along The Bund.
“This picturesque heritage spot has been vandalized. During Maharaja’s rule, The Bund was a favorite haunt of foreign tourists. It was strictly restricted for walking. One day in 1946, I traveled through The Bund on a cycle. I was instantly fined Rs 15. Ironically now The Bund has been vandalized by none other than the Government,” said Prof Ghulam Ali Wani, 85, of Jawahar Nagar. 
“Combination of majestic Chinars and view of river Jhelum was main attraction of tourists. Even Maharaja Hari Singh used to occasionally walk through The Bund. Owing to its beauty, the stretch from The Bund to Shivpora was known as European Quarters. Unplanned development and politics have taken sheen off this stretch particularly The Bund,” Prof Ghulam Ali said.   
Pointing toward the under-construction Skewed bridge, Ghulam Mohi-ud-Din who works at a photo shop along The Bund, said it used to bustle with foreign tourists.
“They used to sit along the banks of Jhelum for hours together and enjoy breeze of chinars and gushing waters of Jhelum. This concrete bridge has been robbed this serene place of its unmatched beauty,” he said. 
Noted poet and chairman Valley Citizens Council Zarief Ahmad Zarief who had resented construction of a bridge near The Bund in ‘80s, termed the Skewed bridge as an eyesore.
Zarief said in ‘80s, the then government led by GM Shah has proposed to set up a colony for his ministers near the Institute of Hotel Management. Zarief said due to public outcry, the proposal was shelved and Raj Bagh and its adjoining areas were declared as green belt.
“Few years later Dr Farooq Abdullah took over as CM and started construction of a bridge near The Bund. We fought against it tooth and nail. After spending nearly Rs 16 lakhs on construction of pillars, Government shelved the project,” Zarief said.
Zarief said besides affecting ecology of the area, the Skewed bridge would be detrimental for female students of a missionary school at Raj Bagh.
When contacted General Manager JKPCC Muhammad Sultan Najar refused to comment over the issue saying he has recently taken assumed office. “I am yet to ascertain details about the project,” he said.

Lastupdate on : Wed, 26 Dec 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 26 Dec 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 27 Dec 2012 00:00:00 IST




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