An Editorial in the Greater Kashmir laments about the vanishing beauty of Srinagar, but conveniently forgets its own role in nurturing misplaced priorities within Kashmir’s Civil Society
Venice of Asia
During the campaigning for the recent elections, the leaders of different mainstream parties have been virtually promising moon to the common people of Kashmir. Starting from improvement in infrastructure consisting of roads, power, water-supply, schools, colleges, to the most sought after jobs. People have voted for development and development of virtually utopian standards has been promised by various leaders.
However, no one has pointed out that the very same people who have been ruling Kashmir in one or the other combination for last 60 years have failed to deliver what they are promising now. One of the leaders has promised that he will make Srinagar the Venice of Asia. In almost all travelogues of the past few centuries Kashmir has been described as the “Venice of the East”. Till early fifties it had continued to be like the famous Italian city with a network of canals and waterways. The foreigners who visited Kashmir in forties also spoke about the beauty of Srinagar and praised its water channels which criss-crossed the city.
However, it needs to be pointed out that the Venetian quality of Srinagar was destroyed by none other than the predecessors of these very leaders who are now talking about making it the Venice of Asia. The single act of filling up the famous waterway in the heart of Srinagar not only removed the Venetian quality of Srinagar but strangulated and choked the main attraction of the city, the Dal Lake. The capital city of Kashmir which was once called the Eden of the East and Switzerland of Asia has become probably the dirtiest city in the world.
Apart from the loss of the living heritage, the city has become a large garbage dump. There is absolutely no control over anything that can be termed civic in this once famous city which is almost 2,000 years old. The Srinagar Master Plan has been given a go by. None of the fundamentals of planning are observed in any part of the city. Huge Shopping Complexes have come up in the heart of residential areas. In some of the posh colonies almost every house owner has constructed shops on the boundary walls of his house to earn some money irrespective of the fact whether it is permitted or not. Most of the shopping complexes are without parking spaces for the potential clients.
There must be almost a million vehicles moving on the roads which have hardly been expanded and supplemented. Traffic is in a mess. Roads are full of pot holes with drains being dug over every month or so. Sometimes these dug out drains continue like that for months and even years. Municipality is unable to cope with the tonnes of garbage produced in the city every day because of their obsolete and archaic methods of disposal. Power lines in the city are so fragile and jumbled up that the electricity is to be switched off with every storm hitting the city. In fact, during a heavy snowfall the lines are out for days on end. We have not been able to make any modern improvement in power distribution system and have probably by all standards a “heritage system” of power distribution! There are umpteen other ills ailing the city of Srinagar.
All the city dwellers will welcome any initiative by any of the politicians regardless of their ideology to put the city of Srinagar back on rails as it used to be in the past. Making it again the Venice of Asia may be a tall order but if we are only able to bring it out of the present chaos and clean it up, we would have achieved a cherished goal of its harassed and belaboured inhabitants. Let us not think of Venice and keep its ancient name of the “City of the Sun” but let us make it deserve even that name honestly and truly!