Vanishing Before Our Eyes

Venice of the Orient was the name that European travellers had given to the city of Srinagar. Gothic brick houses, with lush green roofs, dancing tulips adorning the banks of river Jhelum and Nallahmar would give this city a fairytale look, more fascinating and thrilling than found in the Arabian Nights. The small cart roads of the city used to be very clean. There used to be no waterloging. The Nallahmar constructed by queen Noor Jehan was a boon for this beautiful city. It not only provided an excellent transport channel but also an efficient drainage system. That was once upon a time. 

Today Srinagar is just a few steps short of becoming the largest slum of the sub-continent. There is no perceptible external hand - which the politicians of Kashmir are invariably in the habit of blaming for all ills in the state - involved in the virtual havoc which Srinagar faced. Filling of Nallahmar has proved disastrous for drainage and has by and large contributed towards its present state of affairs. Like all other major decisions, filling of this waterway had political motives behind it. Conversion of the Ma'ar into a road involved displacement of a good chunk of population subscribing to a particular outlook and supporting a particular political party. This displacement suited a particular political party not only for improving its election prospects but, by scattering the people of the area to different parts it also believed that it would help them in keeping the "habitual agitators" out of the precincts of the city. Whether rulers achieved this objective or not is a matter of debate. But, one thing is clear that this developmental decision loaded with political expediency has proved disastrous for the city of Srinagar. Today, it seems that the old city of Srinagar cannot be salvaged and is destined to sink.

The old Srinagar is not just like any other towns of Kashmir. It is a crucible of our cultural and religious heritage. By and large all major shrines of the sufi saints are situated in this area. As regards recent political history of Kashmir, martyrs graveyards which are milestone of great significance are also situated in the old city. It is not the only culture and religion that makes the old city of Srinagar important. A few years back the city was known for some good water bodies and wet lands. Anchar and Khushhalsar were biggest bird sanctuaries within the city. Today, these lakes have turned into cesspools and its only matter of time when they will vanish as land mafias are filling the lakes with open connivance of concerned authorities.And time does not seem to be far away when we will read about these lakes in books only.

The state government should try to come out of political expediency and chalk out a pilot project for saving the old city from sinking. One can understand the financial state of the government but such projects can be funded by International Organisations like the World Bank. Raising of requisite money from international organisations is not difficult provided the government takes the initiative and convinces the center about the dire need of saving Srinagar.

Nations like individuals, live and die but civilizations survive. (Mazzin)

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