Experts have raised question marks over the draft Master Plan for Srinagar saying several proposals in it are "paradoxical and contradictory."
A document prepared by INTACH (Kashmir Chapter) and members of the Institution of Engineers, Sonwarbagh has found lacunas in the Master Plan. The document was prepared after public consultation on June 12, this year, in which experts and members of civil society participated.
The experts have stressed that an eminent urban planner should be assigned to supervise the proposed Master Plan rather than "fragmenting the task by taking experts whose specialization is at best subsidiary to the functions and requirements of a master plan and zonal plans."
They have also questioned the wit of planners, saying, "it seems proposed Master Plan caters more on geography of Srinagar rather than the people living in Srinagar."
The draft Master Plan for Srinagar has already come in for severe criticism with experts raising objections to the proposal of shifting several offices including the civil secretariat to flood-prone areas.
"The Master Plan also talks about economic restructuring and creation of Asset Centers in Srinagar, including reviving Silk Factory of Rajbagh. The factory has long been defunct and the employees have been granted VRS schemes and most of the land of the factory stands sold out. The proposals go against the opinion of expert committees' like Godbole Committee, Ghanai Committee, 1998, under which state owned textile and silk production units were frozen without any further expansion as these have been a huge burden on the State exchequer," reads the document.
It added that as part of the economic schemes of the Master Plan, Tourism and Handicraft clusters shall be extended to the private enterprises for better management and improved economic returns. "The state policies need to be consulted and incorporated in the Master Plan after due thought and knowledge," it states.
The experts have also urged authorities to make public the reasons as why Master Plan 2000-2021 ended up in gross violations and its failure to regulate housing colonies that have come up with our regard to access, and their safety.
The experts have enumerated some of the reasons for shortcomings of the Master Plan which include "contradictory and highly generic building norms and development regulations and irrational building lines proposed for core city roads."
"The existing Pantha Chowk-Parimpora bypass, Circular Road Project which preceded the first Master Plan was subsumed in new Master Plan with the proposals for widening of roads in the core city involving the acquisition of structures, adversely affecting the urban design and the built heritage of city. The plans are more building centric without any coherent policy for protection of sites and precincts and no strategy to preserve the historic architectural style and character of the city," experts said.
"The revised Master Plan talks of urban farming in Greater Srinagar but remains only an indicative statement without any data and policy backup. Further farming areas need to be delineated and made part of the total economic mix keeping in view the agriculture and farming requirements and not just picking up a stray idea," they said.
"There are some serious shortcomings with respect to this in the document. For example, Mughal gardens have been enlisted in UNESCO's Tentative List of World Heritage Sites and not Government of India as mentioned in the document. The Master Plan should have no room for such errors," said convener INTACH Saleem Baig.
He added that in 1989, a preliminary study of the Core City was made by INTACH. "In the study, the core city was identified and demarcated as having high historic value. In 2004, that listing and comprehensive study of heritage properties was undertaken by INTACH. The upgraded list is not provided in the document and hence the grading is not known," Baig said.
"The Master Plan needs to reflect understanding of the city and its historic character. There is a deficit of basic understanding about heritage areas and their evolution. It seems to have been drafted in a disjointed manner," he said.
The experts have emphasized that the importance of the city as "Capital of the State" must be respected and retained. "The proposals like pedestranisation and non motorized transport are a welcome shift from the previous plans but this need to be thoughtfully drawn up," they said.
The experts suggested that the surviving water ways and water bodies of Srinagar need to be revived and secured for water transport and aesthetic purposes.