Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir state, has a long and rich history. With unique architecture, distinct culture, colorful traditions, and honeyed linguistic aspects Srinagar by all standards is a momentous city with layers of historic treasure blended over centuries. Witness to many rulers with different backgrounds, linages and descriptions Srinagar has experienced all sort of unkindness, brutality with some patches of peace and tranquility. However, this great city has survived every onslaught gracefully. It has for centuries stood rock hard against cultural invasions. But it seems the city is crumbling under its burdens now. Its architecture that has evolved over centuries to sustain weather vagaries and seismic disturbances is fast changing for the worst. Cultural pollution and linguistic incursion have created confusion.
Anyways, without disturbing the layers of history, vistas of culture and going deep into the genesis of Srinagar’s rise and possible fall at present even the survival of this city look less hopeful. The unplanned and wild expansion of the city during the last several decades has robbed it of its sheen and beauty that would once attract the people from far-off places. Earlier known for its gardens, water bodies, and charming seasons Srinagar is fast turning into a concrete slum that has become vulnerable to floods and public breakdown. Dal lake and Srinagar city have been complementing each other’s existence for ages. But the present status of Dal will advance the doom of this city. Dal is inching towards death, and so is the Sun-city—Srinagar. The 2014 flood if studied on a critical scale has many lessons for Kashmir and its administrators. Srinagar, the focal point of Kashmir valley, was worst hit by these floods. However, after more than four years nothing tangible has been done to save this city from the fury of possible floods. The only experience Srinagar city dwellers have mastered are encroachments, civic violations, and exceptional materialism. The city managers were not far behind in this loot. They also laid their hands on a proverbial treasure-trove at the cost of sustenance and existence of Srinagar. At present, it appears floods never visited this city—all hunky-dory! But in reality, after the extinction of almost all water basins in the vicinity of Srinagar, irreparable damage to soil cover particularly in the catchments and unabated encroachments Srinagar is dangerously placed on ticking timebomb that will wash away its all life and prosperity anytime.
While sleeping over the issues of gradual decay and degradation, the city suffers from mismanagement and stands neglected especially by its inhabitants. The civic status of Srinagar is almost at the lowest with choking drainage and crumbling sewerage system, particularly after the 2014 floods. Solid waste management is more than primitive and shortly will be the biggest challenge for the city authorities. Stray dogs have virtually taken over the city and practically run a parallel authority of their own. At present garbage and dogs are the most prominent but unpleasant features of this once most beautiful and clean city. The electricity distribution within the city limits and the potable water management system can collapse anytime as these are unable to handle the haphazard and mushroom growth. Blatant violation of land use and building norms will soon turn the city into a death trap that no disaster management protocol can manage. The seismic grading and looming floods otherwise demand better planning and infrastructure development.
Srinagar traffic scenario can be termed one of the worst in the contemporary era of modernization and development. The situation gets compounded with the behavior of the drivers and commuters. And in this muddle pedestrians are the worst hit. A few decades earlier mostly Tongas and pedestrians had exclusive rights on Srinagar roads, but now it is a different story of confusion on roads. With thousands of vehicles and hundreds of street vendors, the traffic mess makes the city to shake with rude footfall and the toxic emissions. At peak hours the city roads get choked with traffic and extremely polluted with harmful gases. With almost negligible parking space city roads have turned messy with every passing day. For lack of cohesive multi-pronged traffic management policy, there seems no end to traffic chaos in the near future. The once fashionable residency road and the ‘Bund’ are no more prominent addresses. Boulevard that would earlier serve as a gallery for Dal visitors has turned into hardest Srinagar street.
The ever-changing masterplans for Srinagar have failed to comprehend and cope up with the population explosion and uncontrolled development of the city. The situation always became worst with political interference and manipulations. The present administrative dispensation with absolute authority can take the best decisions for the survival of this historic city and mitigate the existing issues to make it worth to live for its poor inhabitants away from the prying gaze of materialistic exploiters. It will be a great service to the city and its people.