“ There is nothing new in world except the history you do not know.” – Harry Truman

Ashraf discusses the acute need for functional housing in Kashmir

(Mr. Mohammad Ashraf Fazili, 68, was born in Srinagar. He received his early schooling from the Government Middle School, Nowhatta, Srinagar, and from M.P. High School, Baghi Dilawar Khan in Srinagar. Mr. Fazili completed his F.Sc. from the Sri Pratap College in Srinagar, and received his Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from the Annamalai University with honours grade. He joined the J&K government service upon graduation and steadily rose up the ranks to the position of Chief Engineer at his retirement. He managed a number of important infrastructure projects during his government service, including the Model Town Chrar-i-Sharif, Lower Jhelum Hydro Electric Project, Solid Waste Disposal Scheme Srinagar City, Circular Road Project Srinagar City, etc. He has numerous publications to his credit, including Srinagar the Sun City, Our Ancestors and Saints of Kashmir, etc., which were presented in seminar and symposia. He writes for various journals and is presently working on the Jhelum Valley Civilization.)


The population of J&K State according to 2001 Census is above one crores with a decadal growth of 29 percent. In 1981, in about 82 lakhs houses, average person residing per house were 7 to 8 Nos.

In Srinagar city alone for a population of 12 lakhs in 2000 A.D, 1,50,000 houses were required at 8 persons/ plot against which 13,163 plots/ flats were provided by the Government Housing Cooperatives have contributed to the extent of 0.02%. This totals to 9%. Remaining 91% of residential stock has been built by the general public in the city in an unplanned manner resulting in growth of slums, haphazard development and lack of urban infrastructure.

Housing problem in Srinagar city is of an acute type, growing index of Srinagar urban agglomeration lies between 15 to 24 person/ household and in 37 Mohallas between 12 to 15 persons/ household. About 43% houses in Srinagar have two, three and more households.

About 5 lakh population of core area live in 1114 hectares only which works out to 450 persons/ hectare against the standard of 175 persons/ hectare maximum for Metro cities. Thus an area of 1114 hectares should have about 2 lakhs population maximum. Removal of congestion of 3 lakh population is the existing problem of housing shortage, which will need addition of 37,500 plots at 8 persons/ plot against the existing 9.45 persons/ house. Besides this there will be a continuous growth in the demand over the next two decades.

According to the Srinagar Mater Plan (2000-21) 1,37,500 plots shall be needed for 11 lakh additional residential population. Master Plan for Srinagar (2000-21) with projection in annual plan periods has taken care of the requirement subject to its implementation which needs a strong will from the Government.

Godbole’s report has recommended for a rational land use policy for the State, rigorous implementation of the Master Plan drawn up from time to time. It states that the construction of housing be left to the cooperative societies and the private sector. Besides the National Housing and Habitat Policy 1998 document issued by Ministry of Urban Affaires and Employment Government of India, has recommended liberalization of the legal and regulatory measures to give boost to housing and infrastructure development promotion of private sector and cooperatives, defining the role of public and private agencies, particularly in the infrastructure sector and preparation of long term programmes by the State Govt. Besides it recommends that the Local Authorities should identify housing shortages, devise programmes to meet housing shortages and enforce effectively regulatory measures for planned development. Under the chapter of Urban Land Policy private sector is to be involved in housing in a large scale, be in the form of land pooling and plot reconstitution, private housing colonizers. Real State Development under private sector or cooperative housing. Proposals in respect of legislative frame work also have been articulated in the said chapter.

The J&K State forms a transitional region of diverse physical features. Lying between the week influence of the monsoon region of the Punjab and cold dry Tibet with a small amount of precipitation, strong winds, intense sunshine, and its parallel mountainous ranges running wets to East has more or less a semi-Tibetan type of climate.

Altitude and prevailing winds have given this entire region a marked variation in climatic conditions.

The south west monsoon in summer, though exhausted, strikes to Middle Mountains and some of the winds cross even the Pir Panjal when the monsoon is strong. A line drawn from Uri to Poonch and then along the southerly edge of the Pir Panjal near 330 North Latitude forms the wind divide.
In winter, cyclonic disturbances from the Mediterranean across Iran and Afghanistan, bring heavy precipitation to these territories mostly in the form of snow. It is this snow which keeps the entire Jehlum valley and the surrounding mountains under snow for about five months with a rise in temperature. After March, the snow begins to melt.

The entire mountain zone of Ladakh has snow for three months, which melts or is drifted by winds.

Abrupt change of climate is experienced with the change of seasons in the valley of Kashmir where winter is extremely continental in type with an average January temperature of 310 thus showing an average range of 420 F but actual range may vary as in the year 1953 when it was 940 F. Severe winter extends over 70 days from Dec. 24 to March 8. The entire valley looks like a refrigerator or if it is sunny, lying in the lap of snowy mountains with temperature often below zero.

In 1942 the snow fall was measured at 36 inches when measured as rain Srinagar recorded 27.22 inches of rain in 1943 being above normal by 1.35 inches. However unusually we have been witnessing almost draught conditions for the past five years.

December has a humidity of 89% and May the minimum 71% from October to March the humidity % is high and from May to July it is low. The high humidity in July and August combined with high temperature is responsible for the discomfort felt in these months.

Leh the main town of Ladakh has extremes of climate. The sun rises in a clear sky and warms the ground and then the Air gets heated immediately, oppression of lower layers of the atmosphere is felt with the declining sun when a keen searching south0-west wind gradually dies away and in the still night the ground loses heat and severe frost occurs by morning. The total annual rainfall in Leh is only about 3 inches.

The varying characteristics of meteorology show how far altitude, direction of mountains, velocity of winds and inclination of rays of the sun influence the average weather conditions in the diverse regions of the state which should determine, the orientation of houses including location and grouping of rooms, selection of materials, thickness of walls size of windows, headroom space to take best advantage of solar aspect in winter months and also protection from excessive heat in temperate regions.

The building should be designed to respond to the outdoors. On sunny winter days, the building should be able to open up, in a sense, to let the sun shine in and then to button itself up tightly, like a cocoon, to keep the heat from escaping. The best way of using sun for heating is to design and use the building as a natural solar collector, trying to avoid a reliance on high technology. A building must satisfy three basic requirements to achieve this.

1. The building must be a solar collector.
It must let the sun in when it needs heat, and it must keep it out when it doesn’t. It must also let coolness in when it needs it. This is done primarily by orienting and designing the building to let the sun penetrate through the walls and windows during the winter and by keeping it out during the summer with shading devices such as trees, awnings, Venetian blinds, and a myriad of other methods.

2. The building must be a solar storehouse
It must store the heat for cool (and cold) times when the sun is not shining, and be cool for warm (and hot) periods when the sun is shining. Buildings which are built of heavy materials such as stone and concrete do this most effectively.