Heritage markets in Downtown get facelift

In its endeavor to improve aesthetic beauty of Downtown, state government has started the process to give facelift to heritage markets of Old City under the ambitious Smart City Project.   

Shops in Downtown’s traditional markets Maharaj Gunj, Zaina Kadal and Bohri Kadal have been decked with bi-lingual and uniform signboards. On the rust-coloured reflective signboards, names of shops have been printed in Urdu and English. The signboards are informative with description of trade and mobile numbers of shopkeepers.

The signboards are part of Smart City Mission launched by Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) Government of India. Under the project, cities are selected for Urban renewal and retrofitting to promote cities that provide core infrastructure.

“Under the pilot project, we have started installation of uniform signboards at Maharaj Gunj, Bohri Kadal and Zaina Kadal,” Deputy Commissioner Srinagar Dr Shahid Iqbal Chaudhary told Greater Kashmir. 

Under the project, sunshades of shops in the historic markets of Downtown have also been remodeled with uniform green roof.

Dr Chaudhary, who is also Chief Executive Officer Srinagar Smart City Project, said the two-year project will be extended to other areas of Downtown.

Most of the shopkeepers of Downtown said the concept of uniform signboards and remodeled sunshades have made the traditional markets attractive. Downtown markets including Maharaj Gunj and Zaina Kadal, with mostly copper, cloth and spice and dry fruit sale outlets, are favorite haunt of foreign tourists.

“We welcome the initiative of authorities to give facelift to Downtown which has been lagging behind on development front,” said Nazir Ahmad Shah, Chairman Shaher-e-Khaas Traders Coordination Committee.

Ayaz Zahgeer, chief organiser Beopar Mandal Maharaj Gunj said authorities need to do more to improve basic facilities in Downtown.   

“These signboards are helpful for tourists as they can easily locate shops of their preference. We hail the move of district administration. However, there is dire need of mechanized parking at congested Maharaj Gunj which is one of the oldest markets of Kashmir. We are ready to help authorities to get land for it,’ Zahgeer said. “Under Smart City Project, we also demand removal of encroachments around Budshah Tomb,” he added. 

Dr Chaudhary said Smart City Project maintained that holistic development of Srinagar especially Downtown.

“We invite suggestions from general public and traders for giving facelift to Downtown while conserving its heritage character and improving basic facilities,” he said.

Officials said under the Smart City Project work on various fronts including installation of bio-toilets at major roads, construction of parking spaces, conservation of existing shrines and temples, facade restoration of heritage buildings and riverfront beautification was going on.

Srinagar Smart City project was approved in Round 3 challenge held in April 2017. The project comprises Area Based Development with an estimated amount of Rs. 2869.24 crores and Pan city Solutions with an estimated cost of Rs. 765.03 crores respectively.

Srinagar Smart City Limited (SSCL), a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) was created under Smart City Mission to transform Srinagar into an eco-friendly, resilient and socio-economically vibrant city that celebrates its natural and cultural heritage.