On Monday, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah finally laid the foundation stone of Srinagar city’s much-talked about first vertical housing project. Undertaken by the Srinagar Development Authority (SDA), the project is supposed to bring in apartment blocks to deal with the housing needs of the burgeoning summer capital. But 600 flats in a city of 1.35 million will neither solve its housing problems nor serve to check rampant conversion of agriculture land into commercial and residential areas. The step will not help in any significant way in preserving the essence and topography of the four thousand-year-old city.
In its journey to become a modern city, Srinagar faces a number of issues and problems, not the least from planners and citizens who seem to be oblivious of its future needs. Declared a metropolis in the 2011 Census, the city is projected to have a population crossing the 2 million by 2020. This would mean an average 25, 000 new houses every year.
Besides, Srinagar is being pitched as a future hub of tourism, and claims are being made to develop it on ‘international lines’. But so far there is no plan that could provide vision for the next 20 years. There is no concrete plan for housing, transportation, and other urban infrastructure. The Srinagar Master Plan, dangled before citizens every now and then, is observed more in the breach than in observance.
With unplanned and unregulated construction, the city is turning into a slum with every passing day. Instead of curbing illegal building, the government has moved to provide it legal cover through the legislature, even after the High Court’s decisive and punitive steps. The legislative fraud the government has perpetrated in protecting illegal structures mocks the housing project Omar Abdullah inaugurated with such fanfare and publicity.