SDA Building Satellite Township on Flood Basin

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SRINAGAR: Taking no lessons from the trail of destruction left behind by the September-2014 floods in the summer capital Srinagar, the government is reportedly contemplating to landfill a crucial flood basin near Bemina here for construction of a “Noida-like satellite-township.”
The Srinagar Development Authority (SDA) has reportedly chosen Rakh-e-Gundak Shah, for the development of a “model township”—a water body that serves as flood basin during the heavy rainy spells.
According to the official sources in the SDA, around 5000 kanals of land in the Bemina outskirts would be massively filled to pave way for the construction of the proposed township.
“All this is being done to please a top politician from the ruling coalition who wants to strengthen his voter base in the constituency by way of urbanization,” said an SDA official who wished not to be named. “He aspires to encash the development in the name of mini city, which will fetch estimated around 50,000 more individuals to his constituency.”
The Deputy Chief Minister, Dr Nirmal Singh who is also the Minister for Housing, has been given wrong information by the ‘blue-eyed’ politician who has an eye on the land.
Environment experts fear that the development will come at the cost of ecological imbalance, which will only make Srinagar more flood-prone than before.
Officials of the Irrigation and Flood Control Department (IFCD) confirmed that over the years, the Rakh-e-Gundak Shah has served as an important basin to accommodate flood waters during the heavy rains.
“A heavy spell of rain can flood this area within a matter of days to raise the water level to 10 to 12 feet high,” said a top official of the IFCD wishing not to be named. “Any unplanned urbanization bid will make Srinagar more prone to floods.”
Showing pictures taken only a few days before the floods hit, the officials explained how the area surrounding Rakh-e-GundakShah was inundated heavily.
“By September 5, waters had risen to first floors in areas like Parimpora and Hamdaniya colony which fall in the vicinity of Rakh-e-GundakShah,” said the official.
He said otherwise also, in the previous years, including 2006 when minor floods hit Srinagar from time to time, this area in the west of Srinagar was under the deluge up to 10 to 12 feet.
“This marsh falls in the vicinity of Srinagar’s major flood spill channel, which flows down the south of the City,” he said. “Filling this water body would put significant pressure on entire south city making it more flood-prone.”
Experts said the flood waters would affect life upstream the flood spill channel in the areas like Hyderpora, Barzulla, Pir Bagh, Chanapora, Natipora, Sanat Nagar, Rawalpora, Nowgam, Kanipora, Narkara and Humhama.
“South city is the most urbanized area falling along the flood spill channel, which snakes along the Rakh-e-GundakShah basin. Filling the vast low-lying area downstream will obviously have adverse impact on residential colonies upstream,” explained a retired Chief Engineer of IFC department.
High Court which has been monitoring the developments post 2014 has bluntly turned down the proposed township.
However, after the new government took charge in 2015, sources said, a top politician prevailed upon the SDA to revive the proposal. Sources said even though some officials objected to the proposal in wake of bitter experience of the 2014 floods, such voices have largely been gagged.
The plan seems to have gained momentum lately with one senior SDA official, Abdul Aziz Khawaja, confirming to the media that the area would be land-filled for construction of satellite-township.
The SDA officials said the constructions would be targeted at developing Middle Income Group (MIG) town with an overall population of about 50,000 people and cater to the needs of economically weaker sections to the higher income groups.
For Higher Income Groups, the plinth area of the flats to be constructed is estimated between 1300-1800 square feet whereas for Middle and Lower Income Groups, it is 1000-1300 and 600 Sq. Ft, the official said.
Reacting sharply to the proposed township, a civil society group has decided to move Court. “We’ll urge the High Court to make this issue part of the ongoing PIL, or treat it as another PIL,” a senior lawyer said.
The SDA confirmed that the project was under active consideration. However, the official said the concerned including Irrigation and Flood Control Department and the Environmental Committee would be taken into confidence before giving it a go-ahead.

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