Making sun city brighter

Draft Srinagar Master Plan (2015-2035)

We have to have a holistic approach and plan that can accommodate its culture, heritage and specified patches of its unique olericulture and micro-horticulture activities within and on the peripheries of the city.

Last week I had a chance to attend a function at The Institute of Engineers (Srinagar Chapter) regarding the subsequent presentation of the Draft Master Plan (2015-2035) for Srinagar city. It was interesting to watch the detailed presentation and hear the summary from Chief Town Planner and his technical staff. However, some untimely interventions from several people confused the presenters and the participants could not get the accurate message regarding contours of proposed development and planning of Srinagar city in right perspective. An aura of rancor and an unimportant turf war was quite visible during the earlier part of the session. With the better approach, more often even complex issues can be communicated very rightly beyond technical sessions in more informal way over a cup of tea. But in our place, the informal sessions often turn more formal and selective.

Anyways, the presentation was an all-inclusive roadmap for future of Srinagar city, obviously shaped with enough hard work, comprehensive study and not bad computation regarding potential area expansion, and surge in population. The data regarding proposed development and shaping of other civic habitations within the valley on modern lines was a motivating part of the presentation. The idea can rightly decrease the exponential increase in migration from other parts of the valley towards Srinagar over the period of time. However, the proposals of more vertical expansion could not find many takers as it does not go well with topography and the seismic status of the valley.  Planners have tried to touch the aspect of land use but have not explored and explained much on that beyond land use policy regarding habitation and some land related activities. As one of the participants from INTACH Mr. Saleem Beigh rightly said that Srinagar city plans cannot be studied, decided and drafted in isolation. 

We have to have a holistic approach and plan that can accommodate its culture, heritage and specified patches of its unique olericulture and micro-horticulture activities within and on the peripheries of the city. For proper transportation and traffic management planner have properly proposed several long and short term steps that will surely later on blend with smart city idea. Overall the proposals in the draft master plan cannot be brushed aside as least comprehensive as some voices apprehend. Yes, there is scope for incorporating many more aspects regarding culture, heritage, land use policy and infrastructure development in harmony with the unique ecosystem. We have to be optimistic and repose trust in people visualizing and shaping the master plan, after all, it is yet a draft plan and can be set straight after taking every stakeholder and their suggestions on board.  

During the formal question answer session, several learned people put forth some valuable suggestions and apprehensions that too in context with 2014 floods. Most of the people asked about the failure of earlier master plans vis a vis violation, encroachments and abuse of land use policy and requested for introspection and special care towards such shortfalls. One of the saner voices that touched the finer points of the draft master plan and gave some workable suggestions in his special address was that of Mr. Khurshid Ahamad Ganai, Chief Information Commissioner. Mr. Ganai with his vast experience in several fields of administration while appreciating the holistic approach of planners and suggesting them to find reasons for operational and procedural shortfalls in the implementation of earlier master plans gave valuable suggestions regarding land use and creating practical habitation facilities in the draft master plan. He said, ‘if we want to save the precious valley land, judiciously use the Srinagar land and create workable and safe dwellings we have to plan satellite towns and other dormitory settlements either on the hard-crust Karewas or Foothill in the vicinity of the city and save the city from unfair migrations’. Giving an economic touch to his idea Mr. Khurshid Ganai stressed for involving and incentivising the private sector for such facilities. He rightly pointed towards existing colonies and other facilities like Friends Enclave, Ompora housing colony and police administration and housing facilities at Budgam, Pampore and Ganderbal established on Karewas and foothills as a case study.

Overall the experience regarding draft master plan was great and the proposals and explanations provided by the town planning people were of great value. Hopefully, the awarding of proposed smart city status to Srinagar will provide much-required impetus and robust financial help in creating a beautiful, economically viable but ecologically balanced Srinagar—the ‘Sun City’.