Bleak Srinagar Landscape!

Materialism has done the damage.

On universal garden and landscape scenario only two forms of gardens are documented as formal and informal. Almost all Mughal gardens are formal and the rest all landscape is categorized as informal. So, most of our landscape in Srinagar is formal. Formal pattern of landscaping suit well to topography of Kashmir as formal terraced gardens can be carved out easily out of hilly terrain. Srinagar and its surroundings have a long history of gardens amid beautiful landscape. However, the Mughal era in Kashmir was glorious period for magnificent gardens and orchards. Mughals preferred Dal and Nigeen banks and its catchment area for laying beautiful and spacious gardens in Srinagar city and its vicinity. Unfortunately, at present several of these gardens are either in bad shape or have vanished from the landscape scene of Srinagar. During the last four decades several modifications and additions were made to dwindling landscape of Srinagar. First informal landscape in Srinagar was tried at Nehru Memorial Botanical garden (NMBG), later more planned informal landscaping (Japanese Gardens) at Sheri-e-Kashmir institute of Medical sciences, Baghi Shagufa near Nigeen Lake, and Zabarwan Park on boulevard set a new trend of informal garden laying in Srinagar.Presently, most of the Srinagar landscape devastated in September 2014 floods is in a bad shape. Maintained and managed by more than one department and agencies, a large part of Srinagar landscape is suffering from tussle between these departments. Other than the regular gardens the most part of landscape along roads and highways has either been caged within iron and concrete hardscape or at most place the choice of plantation is out of place. No doubt a substantial budget of urban landscaping goes in creating hardscape, but not the hardscape which does not blend with existing environs and is created disproportionately. A cursory look on central verge from Rambagh Bridge up to airport will reveal a typical landscape development procedure adopted by our developers. Every season giving less importance to caged plantation the steel cages are either replaced or unnecessarily overhauled very often. Such approach and strategy clearly reveals the professional incompetence and administrative hypocrisy of the agency. Contrary to it the stretch within the airport authority jurisdiction is coming up nicely. Same is the story with other edges and landscape areas. Typical hollow pipe posts and loosely hanging substandard iron chains installed almost in every landscape area gives a pathetic look that neither blends with Srinagar scenery nor its heritage and culture.

Gone are the days when in seventies of last century ornamental wooden hanging flower baskets along the central verge would give a beautiful look on Maulana Azad road from Dalgate crossing up to Batmaloo bridge over Doodhganga waterway. This whole concept of beautification would blend well with lush green Kashmir golf course and Gandhi Park on one side and Polo ground parks and Exhibition ground on other side. This used to be the most beautiful and fashionable multi-lane road in Srinagar. Regrettably, later instead of being more innovative and professional the approach and mindset of our landscape developers turned disgusting.  At several places the wrong selection of hazardous plants like yucca, wide Thuja and bushy Spiraea, Forsythia and Buddleia   as avenue plantation created a mess and proved hazardous both for pedestrians and motorists.

Planners and landscape developing authorities should have a much greener mindset that can conceive more greenery and plantation than concrete and steel. Landscaping is an artistic profession of aesthetics and sensitivity, where any intrusion of arrogance or materialism will kill the whole concept of landscaping. Srinagar with unique climatic condition, soil profile and rich flora and aroma has tremendous scope for quality landscape and ample opportunity to showcase our rich flora. But the monster of materialism has routed the mindset of our planners, developers and people as well, who are least concerned with falling quality and quantity of Srinagar landscape.