The missing “Greenery”!

The authorities have been declaring repeatedly for some time that the city of Srinagar would be developed as a Smart “Green City” but the proposed greenery is still missing!
The missing “Greenery”!
Congested Sher-i-Khas

Kashmir has always been compared to Paradise or Heaven.Right from the Mughal times it has served as a summer retreat for the rulerswho came from far off places. Apart from a cool climate in summer (incidentallyit is not that cool now!) its attraction has been the abundant greenery. Themajestic towering Chinars are a symbol of that greenery notwithstanding thefact that we have been mercilessly cutting these hundreds of years old symbolictrees! Our soil is so fertile that rain for a few days or so makes grass growautomatically to turn the area green. Unfortunately, a virtual population explosionin the city because of every one wanting to come here to stay and work, ourgreen space has been drastically reduced. Recently, the Town PlanningOrganisation had circulated a master plan for making Srinagar a smart city.There was also a plan for increasing the green spaces in the city. As per urbandevelopment norms circulated by the Union Urban Development Ministry, a citylike Srinagar should have a minimum of 570 hectares (11,268 kanals) of landunder organized parks and gardens. In contrast the city only has 287 hectares(5,673 kanals) of such space spread over 169 parks. The World HealthOrganisation has fixed the minimum organized space for every citizen of city tobe 9 square meters. Unfortunately, the capital city of the Paradise has only 2.6square meters per citizen!

Royal Spring Golf Course

The only world famous gardens of Srinagar, Nishat, Shalimarand Chashmashahi were constructed by Mughals centuries ago. There has been noaddition to gardens or parks of that standard since the Mughal times. Had theMughals not laid these historical gardens Srinagar would have had nothing toshow as a tourist attraction! Except the much touted Tulip Garden claimed to bethe biggest in Asia, there has been no worthwhile addition to such level ofparks. Justice Bilal Nazki, former Chief Justice of Bihar had written a letterin May 2016 to the J & K Chief Justice which was treated by him as a PublicInterest Litigation. The High Court had directed the Government through ChiefSecretary to take note of the letter of the former Chief Justice with regard toincreasing the level of green space in Srinagar. Mr Nazki in his letter hadmentioned about various parks which had been virtually converted into buildingsby the Government itself! These include Usman Zanana Park, on which civil secretariathas been built; part of Badamwari which has been turned into a governmenthousing colony; some area of Naseem Bagh has been used for Kashmir University'svarious blocks; Polo Ground has been turned into taxi stand and floriculturalnursery; Lal Mandi Park has been squeezed on all sides over the years; IqbalPark has also been considerably reduced in size. The Court directed AdvocateFaisal Qadri to inspect 11 parks and report the status of these. After gettingthe report, the Court noted that nothing substantial had been done to increasethe green space. In fact, it asked the Government to state where Rs 64 lakhsreleased for the development of parks had gone as the condition of the parks onthe ground had remained unchanged!

Recently, the Governor started a campaign to plant 50 lakhtrees by 2020. It is a commendable initiative and is going to make a bigdifference to the general atmosphere and the climate. Along with treeplantation there is need to create green spaces like parks and play grounds etc.Sometime back a golf course was set up on the banks of Dal Lake. The saidcourse known as the Royal Spring Golf Course is a very good example of creatinga green space. One wishes if a number of such courses had been created alongthe banks of the Lake. These would have helped in keeping the lake unpollutedby preventing dumping of sewage by the colonies set up on the banks of thelake! While observing the government efforts for preserving the greenery onemust keep in mind the treatment given to the Chinars supposedly a heritage treeof Kashmir. Some of these Chinars are even 400 years old. Many of these treeshave been mercilessly cut down to make way for roads and even some buildings.The easiest way has been to strangulate these by choking the space around thebase of these which makes these wither away slowly and then these are cut down.One can see some of these trees in this state on the banks of River Jhelum nearZero Bridge!

Governor while starting the plantation drive observed thatthe people in charge of forests had made millions. Well, if true, thedeclaration needs to be followed up by initiating legal proceedings against theculprits. That would not only be a bold and courageous step but a big favor tofuture generations by way of preservation of our green gold as also a lessonfor the defaulters. Let us pray and hope such an action is initiated soon!Preserving our greenery and creating more in future is not only theresponsibility of the government. Every citizen irrespective of caste, colourand creed needs to participate in the effort. We need to guard our forests likeBahugna's Chipko Movement. Similarly, every new colony must necessarily haveopen and green spaces. Let us hope the planners of the future "Smart Srinagar"keep these most essential requirements in view before executing various plans!

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