Govt sleeps on threat to revered landmarks
HISTORIC SHRINES VULNERABLE TO FIRE
Srinagar, June 26: If shrine of Hazrat Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jeelani(RA) was gutted to cinder in no time at the Dastgeer Sahib, Khanyaar Monday morning, the risk to other such religious places in this City in the Himalayas is no less either. Around two dozen centuries-old structures are vulnerable to fire because the government has failed to formulate policy to prevent such incidents, which not only deprive the people of their heritage but leave a behind an irreparable loss.
There are at least 22 shrines of historic significance in Srinagar. And obviously all are made of prized deodar. Though a strongest of the wood, deodar is most vulnerable to fire. The papier-mâché and woodwork, which add to the beauty of the shrines equally adds to the vulnerability of fire.
The incident at Dastgeer Sahib (RA) shrine has seen worst of the fears coming true as the entire wooden structure decorated with breathtaking papier-mâché and calligraphy was reduced to ashes before the government could react.
And this is where the trouble erupts. The government, as per experts, needs to have a full-fledged proactive policy including resources like hydrants and fire-extinguishers, in place than react to a situation in futility as seemingly happened at the Dastgeer Sahib(RA) shrine.
THE VULNERABLE SITES
INTACH, a prominent organization into heritage conservation has listed at-least 22 shrines of heritage significance, mostly in the old City. While the Dastgeer Sahib(RA) shrine was one of them, the other remaining timber based structures include the shrines of Khanqah-e-Moula(RA) and Naqshbandh Sahib (RA).
NO HYDRANTS, NO FIRE-EXTINGUISHERS
None of the historic shrines in the City, though timber based, have adequate fire-fighting mechanism in place. The only hope to douse blazes, if any, is on the action of fire-fighters.
But the distance between the fire and its fighters is enough to leave the hopes in ashes. The same came true at Khanyaar on the morning of June 25. By the time fire-fighters reached the spot and exhausted entire water tanker, half the structure, as per witnesses, was gutted.
As the fire-fighters started looking for adequate water to keep the canons on, no source was available in the vicinity, expect the filthy waters of Babademd lagoon, which devotees obviously didn’t find suitable to be sprayed at a revered site. By the time a feasible alternative was found, it was too late.
WATER, A CRUDE JOKE
Even a middle class student knows that water doesn’t work on fire where oil comes in place. In fact it fuels such blazes. The administration, however, seems to have missed the logic during fire fighting at the Dastgeer Sahib(RA) shrine.
Experts said the 200-year-old building was heavily decorated in oil paint. Such a structure, they said, could only be saved by “foam based fire-extinguishers” than water.
“The use of water canons had adverse impact on the fire because the oil came up to fuel the flames,” opined prominent expert on heritage and INTACH’s state convenor Muhammad Saleem Beg.
Leave apart audit on how wrongly the Wakf Board must have spend millions collected as charity from shrines, when it failed to keep in place resources to prevent fire at Dastgeer Sahib(RA) shrine; there’s even a need of fire audit for such sacred places.
“There’s a dire need of fire audit. This cannot be done by any Fire and Emergency Services department but an expert agency of this field,” Muhammad Saleem Beg, who is also former Director General Tourism, said.
Though the ruling National Conference said the Dastgeer Sahib (RA) shrine would be “restored to its original glory and the best possible expertise engaged in the process of restoration”, the fire incident is an irreparable loss much beyond being in the form of a building structure alone.
“We cannot even imagine of another loss and its subsequent restoration on original lines… It’s high time to take remedial measures than wait for another devastation,” said prominent civil society member and industrialist Syed Shakeel Qalander.
( To be concluded)
Lastupdate on : Tue, 26 Jun 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 26 Jun 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 27 Jun 2012 00:00:00 IST
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