Srinagar: The City Used & Abused

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Srinagar City is ranked amongst one of the most unclean cities. This status is not merely an issue of ranking. Even to the naked eye, Srinagar city does not smell of roses when it comes to cleanliness. Mounds of garbage and waste near or in Mohallas and localities, on and over our streets and elsewhere testify to the unclean nature of our city. Among other things, the character of centuries old city is lost.  

There are two components and strands to the lack of cleanliness here: one is our civic and public consciousness and the other is apathy of the authorities; the municipal function of our city authorities is severely lacking. In terms of our civic function, there is a bit of a paradox in operation: while we keep our homes and habitats (this cuts across classes) clean and even sanitized, we have no qualms in dumping waste on the roadside or even at times in front of our neighbours’ door steps.

As far as our city’s municipal authorities are concerned, while it is true that the demand side of the municipal function has increased exponentially (given population growth and expansion of the city limits), and has thus stretched its capacities, the supply side remains wanting. The result of these two factors, added up, leads to an unclean and an unhygienic city. This has public health, sanitation and aesthetic consequences.

It is obvious that unclean surroundings lead to health issues and attract kinds of animals- stray dogs, rodents and assorted pests- that redound negatively to public health; they lead to diseases and illnesses that we could do without. Unclean surroundings also clog our sanitation systems and this then adds a layer to the extant conditions. Moreover, Srinagar, being the heart of and gateway to Kashmir,  is a tourist draw and should be a tourist attraction. But, because, unclean surroundings, most likely repel tourists leading to an attrition of tourists from the historic city.

Now having established the nature of the problem, we may proceed to delineating solutions to the problem. The solution and the way out of our cleanliness morass is twofold and entails a partnership between the public and the municipal authorities. The people of the city must take recourse to collective action and pledge to make their surroundings and environs clean; this could be followed by bottoms up pressure on the authorities to be more attentive and take vigorous action to do their duty effectively and efficiently. The municipal authorities can either outsource some of their functions to private players or enter into public private partnerships to streamline their functions and processes. Also, waste disposal facilities can be made more efficient by employing latest waste disposal technologies and techniques.

In essence, what KO is rooting for is a stakeholder approach to crafting and maintaining a clean urban environment. This is eminently possible; it has been tried and done successfully elsewhere and there is no reason why this approach cannot succeed here.  To safeguard our city and, in the least, restore it to its pristine glory, in terms of cleanliness, is the need of the hour. Our religion attaches so much significance to cleanliness, that it states that “cleanliness is half of faith”. If our religion enjoins cleanliness and if we diligently and vigorously follow other religious obligations, why are we remiss in this aspect? Let us make a firm resolve and strive to make our city clean, green and attractive again.


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