Bandipora, the first planned model town one of most underdeveloped in J&K
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Bandipora, the first planned model town one of most underdeveloped in J&K

When a massive blaze gutted much of Bandipora in the winter of 1962, the then prime minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Bakhshi Ghulam Mohammad saw an opportunity to rebuild the town under a master plan, the very first in the state.

When a massive blaze gutted much of Bandipora in the winter of 1962, the then prime minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Bakhshi Ghulam Mohammad saw an opportunity to rebuild the town under a master plan, the very first in the state. 

But nearly five decades later, the northern Kashmir town is one of the most underdeveloped in the state.

Following the fire that reduced Bandipora to ashes in December 1962, Bakhshi personally visited the town and promised to rebuild it, approving Rs 10 lakh on the spot. By the next year a master plan was ready.

According to officials this was the first such master plan envisaged in the state for Bandipora as a model town with all possible facilities like parks, planned construction, and sewerage and drainage system across the town.

Ghulam Mustafa, a Patwari (now retired) who was part of the committee that prepared the master plan said the decision was taken by Bakhshi but the plan was later executed by Khawaja Shamsuddin who succeeded Bakhshi after he resigned in May 1963.

"Chief engineers, town planners, rehabilitation commissioner and other officials were involved in preparing the master plan and Bandipora town was built as the first model town of the state. Every individual household that had suffered losses in the fire were provided a plot in the town under the master plan. The construction was carried out in a planned manner. This was the first such master plan of the state," Mustafa said. 

"This was environment-friendly as it had a terraced garden locally known as Nishat Park, similar to that of Nishat Bagh in Srinagar, proper sewerage and drainage system was built across the town. Construction of houses, shops, roads, and inner links was carried out in a planned manner. Fire gaps and an alternate road were also constructed in the main town, making it a model town," a seniour official said. 

However, locals said the basic idea of the model town was slowly destroyed as it expanded in an unplanned manner.

"It is no more a model town, it is a hotchpotch, more congested and environmentally hazardous. The drainage system is in a shambles. Most of the inner links have been encroached upon. The fire gaps don't exist anywhere as all of them have been encroached by influential and politically well-connected people," said Ghulam Rasool Shah, a local resident.

Residents say the parks built under the master plan including Gulshan Park and Nishat Park have been damaged and roads including the main road of the town have been choked due to encroachment.

Under the master plan, an alternate road was constructed right from Nowpora to Nibripora behind the main market of the town but it has been blocked at vital spots due to illegal encroachment.

"Had the road not been encroached at vital spots it would have reduced the traffic congestion in the main market," another resident said.

Sewerage and drainage system too is in a shambles. 

"The poor drainage system gets exposed due to a slight drizzle as the roads get inundated. Had the master plan been reviewed and extended the scenario would have been different. But the successive regimes have failed to extend the master plan," said Showkat Ahmad, another town resident.

The only remnants of the state's first master plan on the ground are Nishat Park, Eidgah and Town Hall. 

"These were the glaring spots of the town which were constructed under that master plan. The town even lacks a waste management plan now as the waste is being dumped first in the main market and later lifted in the evening for dumping on the banks of Wular Lake near Nusoo village." 

Deputy Commissioner Bandipora, Dr. Shahid Iqbal Choudhary said the 50-year-old master plan was indeed a professional work of highest order but much has changed since it was made.

"The new expansion will be as per master plan to be notified by the government in view of Bandipora bypass road under sanction process. Moreover, town beautification project will also get shape this year, however, the importance of the master plan can't be discounted and due care is being given to this aspect. Rs 5 crore will also be given for drainage system this year," Choudhary said.

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