Editorial | Smart City lacks Open Spaces!

Srinagar is a historical City almost 2000 years old! It has been given many epithets by various travelers and writers because of its many unique characteristics. Earlier because of a network of canals the city was given the name of the Venice of the East. Unfortunately, we filled up those canals to make a road. Then there are the historical Mughal Gardens a must for every visitor to Kashmir. Sir Water Lawrence in his book “Valley of Kashmir” writes, “Srinagar inspite of its internal squalor is one of the most picturesque places in the world. The hill of Takht-i-Suliman, which rises abruptly to a height of 1000 feet, and the Hariparbat ridge, with the fort of Akbar surmounting it, form an appropriate frame to the scenery, and beyond these near hills the great mountains seem to tower over the city as one passes up the river highway. The very absences of order in the location of the houses and their tumbled—down appearance add a peculiar charm to the scenery, and Srinagar possesses at once the attraction of a city full of life and a city of ruins”. No doubt Srinagar, especially the Sher-i-Khas is a lively city but the most important aspect of the city which due to so called “Development” has been squeezed, is the open and green spaces. People have virtually gone berserk in constructing shopping complexes and residential houses which have drastically reduced the open spaces especially the green spaces. Green Open Spaces are considered to be the lungs of a city. Due to material greed we are choking the lungs of the city. 

Former Chief Justice of Bihar, Justice (retired) Bilal Nazki in May 2016 had written a letter to the Chief Justice of Jammu and Kashmir High Court highlighting how the city is lacking the green spaces.  In 2017, the High court treated the letter as Public Interest Litigation. In response to PIL Rs 64 lakhs were released for improvement of parks in open spaces.However, the Bench subsequently observed, “Where has the money gone, when the ground reality about the Srinagar city parks stands unchanged?” We have to collectively think if we want the capital of the “Heaven on Earth” to become a stinking dirty city which it was declared some years back or we want to revive it to be the real heaven of the earlier times? Not only must we safeguard whatever open green spaces are left but ensure that the authorities make it mandatory on the builders of all new colonies and complexes to have sufficient open and green spaces. In the alternative, we have no right to call Srinagar a “Smart City”!