3 years on, Govt discovers City centre chocking; starts demolition of park


Srinagar, Apr 24: What started amid hype as “revival of lost glory” by the ruling coalition –the Lal Chowk Beautification –has proved wastage of Rs two odd crores with state government finally discovering that the construction of the roadside park has chocked the heart of the City. It, however, took the concerned authorities some three years to realize the “mistake”, which for now is being rectified by razing the concrete landscape erected on the middle of the road.
 But while the state government took lot of time and wasted a whopping amount to realize the “error in its beautification decision”, the stakeholders including shopkeepers had foreseen the mess and expressed reservations at the start of the project way back in 2010.
 Though Greater Kashmir had highlighted the public hue and cry against the narrowing down of the historic Lal Chowk, no heed was paid to Aam Aadmi’s aspirations, while the authorities went ahead saying it was a prestigious project “meticulously designed by the experts.”

 In January 2010, Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah granted Rs two crore to “revive glory of the City centre” while the concerned MLA Amira Kadal and the then MOS Tourism and Housing and Urban Development departments, Nasir Aslam Wani, finalized the “beautification plan.”
 As per the plan, a concrete park was to be constructed in the middle of the 100 odd feet road. But there erupted differences over commonsense. At a time when City craves for wide roads, narrowing down of the only wide stretch in the City centre was seen as ridiculous.
 There was an outcry against the development. But the minister in charge seemingly paid no heed to the public aspirations and subsequently handed over the project execution to the Tourism department.
 That time speaking on behalf of the government, the then District Development Commissioner, Meraj Ahmed Kakroo said the beautification plan had been developed by experts after “thorough study”.  “It’s a well considered plan by architects and engineers,” Kakroo is on record to have said.

 Decades back the National Conference founder and the then Chief Minister Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah had aspired that the road stretch between the Lal Chowk and adjoining Budshah Chowk be widened to bring the twin hubs closer.
 In the present regime, with all the eight City MLAs belonging to the party, there was an 8/8 probability to fulfill his dream. Observers opined that the money granted by the Chief Minister for “revival of lost glory” of the City centre could serve as a token amount in making a step forward by procuring some of the structures coming in way of the proposed widening.
 But what the government did was exactly the opposite. Sheikh’s vision got buried under the concrete park.

 As the park was constructed with metallic gazebos and benches on cemented landscaping, and the boundary wall of the Ghanta Ghat was expanded with stone foundation; Lal Chowk got more congested. And the traffic flow turned messier than ever before.
 While shopkeepers kept complaining that unlike the past shoppers avoided visiting the marketplace due to little or no space for parking, traffic regulation remained a tough affair.

 Realizing the problem, the authorities on Tuesday started demolition of the park carved out in steel and concrete. Using JCBs, shovels and tongs, portions of the landscaped park were uprooted in the morning hours. But to avoid embarrassment because of “rollback in the much celebrated decision”, sources said, the government top brass directed the officials to avoid commenting over the issue, though the park has been razed in full public gaze.
 The Tourism department, which undertook the construction feigned ignorance about the demolition. “I have no ideas, will have to confirm it,” said Talat Ahmed, Director Tourism. The Roads and Building department, however, admitted that they undertook the demolition. “Basically we are trying to explore as to how the road network in the area can be widened because there were complaints from the area shopkeepers that the park was creating parking problems,” said a senior R&B official, requesting not to be named.

 Though the ruling National Conference often speaks of “revival of lost glory’ of this historic City, its first such endeavor through construction of park on the middle of the main road looks ugly for now amid debris of the razed structure, though raised amid hype!

Lastupdate on : Wed, 24 Apr 2013 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 24 Apr 2013 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 25 Apr 2013 00:00:00 IST

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