Salvaging Srinagar

Blessed with bounties of nature, Srinagar has been the main selling point of the tourism campaign of the J&K Government.

Blessed with bounties of nature, Srinagar has been the main selling point of the tourism campaign of the J&K Government.

With Dal lake, Mughal Gardens, Zarbawan hills in the backdrop, the city has been the locus of the western romantic dreams for centuries.

This once fabled city of orchards has been an inspiration for the travelers – emperors, poets, Sufis etc for centuries. But now the same Srinagar is one of the uncleanest cities of India.

A survey by Ministry of Urban Development has ranked 152nd in the list of the best performing cities under Swach Bharat Mission. A total of 476 cities of the country were surveyed and ranking was based on the extent of open defecation and solid waste management practices in these cities. This comes after a survey by the same ministry in 2010 which ranked Srinagar as the fourth dirtiest city in India. Recently, local studies also pointed towards worsening air quality in the city.

To an outsider, such surveys are an oxymoron: how can a Valley regarded worldwide as the terrestrial paradise of the earth have a city which ranks among the dirtiest. But the sad fact is that this is true. And not only the state government we all are responsible for despoiling Srinagar. But if anybody has to be held accountable for wrecking the city, it is the government. For, it is the government which has the power not only to make a redeeming change to the infrastructure of the city but also to stop people from messing with its environment. And the government has failed on both counts.

Our regulatory agencies often do more damage than preserve our natural assets. Dal suffers from the connivance of LAWDA in its encroachment and the SMC has left the field open to the land mafia, a whole food chain of the builders, property dealers and foot soldiers who pounce on any free space and soon turn it into a concrete jungle.

This real estate edifice is sustained by the administrative and political corruption, big bureaucrats, lower-rung employees and the political leaders. Thanks to Traffic Police, the city's traffic has also become notoriously unmanageable. The surging volume of transport and the same small network of roads has rendered Srinagar unpliable for traffic. The city's problems are manifold and we are not even beginning to address them. But there is hardly any time for further delay. Only an urgent and sustained action can bring the city back from the brink.

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