Chief Town Planner, Kashmir, Fayaz Ahmad Khan on Saturday termed the under-construction Jahangir Chowk-Ram Bagh flyover an ‘infrastructural monster’ which would have ‘damning repercussions’ on the city’s development.
Khan was speaking here during a talk-show ‘Darbar’ organized by ‘Sunrise in Kashmir’, a non-governmental organisation, to deliberate on the draft Master Plan (2015-35) for Srinagar.
He said the previous master plans for the city, from 1971, had ‘miserably failed’, adding that the 2001-21 master plan failed due to engagement of consultancies from outside Kashmir who were not connected to the society and aspersions of the residents.
“The ideas propagated by them were fantasies. City needs reinvigorated vibrancy which can come from local planners who know the city,” Khan said.
He stressed on the need to turn Lal Chowk into a commercial hub while the official domes presently there need to be shifted. “I talked to the head of Tyndale Biscoe and Mallinson School and made him understand that they need to move out so that they can expand,” Khan said, adding that tourists visiting Srinagar needed to be retained in the city for longer.
Blaming the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) and Srinagar Development Authority (SDA) for failing to implement the previous master plan, Khan said the government needed to engage professional planners in the authorities.
On the role of SMC and its failure to implement the previous master plan, SMC Commissioner, Shafqat Khan, said the corporation had assigned the building permission responsibility to three of its senior officials who would lose their job for any violation in the master plan.
“We have also switched to stage-wise permission system where the individual will have to come back to us after building each floor for revalidation of the permission,” he added.
Shafqat said the commercial buildings that were sealed years back on High Court orders for operating without commercial licences had not been granted a life-long suspension order by the government and the matter would be taken up on case to case basis.
Meanwhile, Fayaz Ahmad Khan said the city residents were asked for suggestions and feedback about the proposed master plan but he was disappointment by the poor response.
“We conducted a series of conferences and seminars but then public should come forth and give their suggestions,” he said. “This is everyone’s city.”
He further said the city needed to be developed to make it resilient against natural disasters like 2014 Kashmir floods, adding it was unfortunate that various departments did not work in tandem.
“The irrigation and flood control department must come clear on the flood preparedness because everybody fears a day’s rain in Srinagar,” he said.
Speaking at the talk-show, National Conference youth wing president and ex-Mayor of SMC, Salman Sagar, said, “The plans are all good but then the implementation makes them look bad.” He added the political leaders and bureaucracy needed to take tough decisions to “bring back the lost vigour and zeal of the city”.
“J&K, particularly valley, failed to reap the benefits of Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission scheme because of implementation. The scheme had a hassle free mechanism and availability of funds,” Sagar said.
He said the housing colonies in Jammu and Budgam for Kashmiri Pandits were constructed on pilot basis while the construction on ‘rehabilitation homes’ for Dal dwellers continued to be in slumber. “Whatever the government wishes to build it can.”
People from various walks of life attended the event, organised by Faaiz Dijoo at Hotel Sarovar Portico here.