Choked City: Srinagar to be houseful by 2031

Only roads, parks, water bodies to be left out for constructions

Srinagar city is going to exhaust every inch of its land area meant for constructions in the next 17 years, a study has revealed triggering alarm among the state planners.
The study conducted by researchers at the Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology (SKUAST) and the Department of Environment and Remote Sensing has come out with the alerting information after analyzing extensive satellite data through 1971 to 2011.
According to the study, the unplanned expansion of constructions – both residential and commercial – in the state’s summer capital with the present local area of 417 sq km, is putting enormous pressure on the city’s land resources.
The study calculated built up, agriculture, hills, horticulture, open land, water body and restricted area of Srinagar city right from 1971 and on the basis of this data construed a model to forecast the future trend. “The model when fed with this data stopped forecasting beyond year 2031 indicating exhaustion of carrying capacity of Srinagar city,” said one of the researchers.
After 2031 the only area in Srinagar left for constructions would be roads, parks and water bodies. It would have almost continuous concrete structures from one part of the city to the other.
According to the study the population of Srinagar city in 2031 would be around 18 lakh, when the city will completely run out of space for new constructions.
The study, already perused by Srinagar Development Authority (SDA), has pointed the blame towards unplanned and illegal constructions in and around the city encouraged by lack of a sound regulatory mechanism.
Officials at SDA agree to the impending problem. According to SDA documents, “there are two cities in Srinagar, one is in official records and other is on ground.”
Officials agree that the Srinagar Master Plan has been and is being violated in every possible manner putting the city on an autopilot towards disaster.
The transformation of Srinagar into a concrete jungle would also play a role in climate range.
“If there is no check on such haphazard development, we are heading towards a dangerous situation,” said Ghulam Hassan Mir, Divisional Town Planner (SDA). “The huge increase in built up area is associated with eating up of open and green areas and increase of vehicular traffic, and it would alter the climate of Srinagar city in particular and the whole region in general.”
According to SDA assessments, unabated constructions would put enormous pressure on every resource of the city. “We are looking at around two million people. We have to provide them with basic amenities like water, power, healthcare and transportation facilities,” said Mir. “Under the current model we won’t be able to provide such facilities and what will happen in 2031 can be anybody’s guess,” he said.
 The government’s only step towards resolving the issue has been to announce the increase of local area of Srinagar city from the existing area of 417 sq km to 757 sq km in the Master Plan 2012 -2032 currently under formulation. “In all these decades when they couldn’t manage and plan development for 417 sq kms, how will they administer an area almost twice the existing local area,” said an expert.
According the planners, SDA, mandated with not only formulating Srinagar Master Plan but providing planned and affordable housing in the city, has completely failed in fulfilling the desired objective. “During the past five decades of its existence SDA has developed a single housing colony at Bemina, which unfortunately has turned out to be the biggest slum in Srinagar,” said a town planner, previously associated with SDA. He said the Authority is presently almost defunct as there are no projects in hand and the organization is plagued by mismanagement, maladministration and ineptitude at various levels.
The planner opined that the government should encourage private players in the housing sector, albeit with a strong regulatory mechanism in place. “The present mess including lack of adequate roads, parking facilities, parks and other amenities in most of the housing colonies and commercial centres in Srinagar is because of the failure of Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) and SDA in enforcing even the minimum basic regulatory mechanism while according building permissions,” he said.
Srinagar city is already witnessing a huge shortage of houses. According to 2011 census figures, 43 percent of houses in Srinagar have two, three or more households. Three Lakh people are in need of relocation to ease congestion in the city. The Srinagar Master Plan (2000-2021) calls for making housing arrangements for 11 lakh additional people, and that requires 1,37,500 plots of land running into thousands of acres.

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