Srinagar—the city under siege!

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Views from Srinagar

Fida Iqbal

A bird’s-eye view of Srinagar city describes a spectacular combination of lush green landscape and a well-organized habitation. The adjoining mountain ranges and the two beautiful hills make it a wonderful combination of nature’s creations for the people who have otherwise suffered for centuries. The attractive river Jhelum traversing trough most parts of the city along with several lakes, water bodies and a labyrinth of waterways give a unique look to Srinagar—the ‘Sun City’. Many travellers and foreign tourists have then rightly described Srinagar as ‘paradise on Earth’ and ‘the Venice of the East’. Certainly, Srinagar by all standards is a historic city possessing a huge wealth of history, heritage, culture and much more in its bosom. The old city is a virtual encyclopedia of ethos and heritage. But frankly speaking on the ground this description is all aerial mirage hiding our greed!
Anyways, beyond hallucinating aerial description and some historical perspective of Srinagar city, the ground reality looks entirely different. A walk through the city—old city, in particular, will reveal how the people of this city have not only been vandalizing their own heritage but have encroached upon the fundamentals of this historic city leaving behind trails of destruction for posterity. The inhabitants of the city have turned vulturous, their materialistic greed has devoured the city of its soul and grace. Over the period of time, the successive planners too have played their own dirty role to ruin the architectural elegance and historic standing of this city.
It is better not to touch the blundering issues like the dismantling of once beautiful Nalla maar waterway and several other ill-conceived projects. Beyond old Srinagar, in other parts of the city established during last several decades, the situation is equally pathetic. Public greed and corrupt planning have turned the whole area into a modern slum.
Holes in planning and unethical land-use policy adopted by almost all stakeholders over the period of time got exposed in 2014 floods when even the most prestigious addresses in the civil lines area (the modern city) were the worst hit and only God saved the residents.
Srinagar post-1947 is said to have achieved a lot. But other than abolition of autocracy Srinagar attained nothing instead as a beautiful and ecologically sustainable city it lost its glory. The worst hit is its unique architecture and once most balanced ecosystem. The city of wooden bridges became the worst victim of modernization and our materialistic greed has turned it into a concrete jungle. Earlier where beautiful fragrant plants would grow with ease now only harmful gas emitting industrial smokestacks, concrete buildings and steel towers stand tall mocking at our sense of aesthetics and environmental concerns. The 2014 floods, on one hand, taught us several lessons regarding devious fiddling with nature but on the other hand, rich and mighty explored the opportunities to ignore the land-use and other building norms and have now made a mess of Srinagar city! These floods taught us many lessons but failed to keep us away from gluttony.
Since 2014 the whole Srinagar city in the name of reconstruction and development stands opened up. But, unfortunately, the city and its people’s sufferings and inconvenience seem to have no ends. Even the mega developmental projects started prior to floods are nowhere near completion. This situation of delay has compounded many issues city was already grappling with.
Traffic mess has turned murkier; drainage and sewerage are badly affected because of this ‘operation table’ like situation. Srinagar has degraded gradually over the period of time during last fifty years but after 2014 floods it has monstrously turned into a materialistic hell.
—Courtesy: GK