Even as authorities remain “otherwise engaged,” particularly in the state’s summer capital, many traders in flood-hit Lal Chowk, Abi Guzar and other commercial areas have begun replacing makeshift shops by concrete structures. Some of this ‘reconstruction’ encroaches on roads, lanes and drains in the name of resilience and re-building Kashmir. Pertinently, encroachment of roads, drains, footpaths and water bodies has been described as one of the reasons for the devastation of the recent floods, the worst in recent memory.
Given their record over the years, it would be unrealistic to expect authorities to be alive to the situation, but vain hopes of someone in the Valley’s vast army of officials coming out to prevent irresponsible elements from taking advantage of the city’s wrecking still survive. There is no denying the destruction the floods have caused across Kashmir, but allowing municipal laws to be violated and flouted is no answer. Arbitrary, unregulated and unplanned rebuilding would be tantamount to laying the ground work for another disaster.
The government has a vivid example in the form of residential colonies like Jawahar Nagar and Bemina, both of which turned into lakes during the recent floods. Bemina was a wetland till the 80s, but the state government allotted it to the workers of a particular party. Though both areas have comparatively wider roads and a semblance of drainage, the September floods have brought to fore the dangers looming over them.
The historic city of Srinagar and the Valley’s major towns need good roads, proper drainage and some space to absorb shocks. Not to speak of the Srinagar Municipal Corporation, which has sanctioned indiscriminate commercialisation of many residential areas, even the so-called Srinagar Development Authority (SDA) has already flooded the city with shopping complexes and parking lots.
Most makeshift shops that are now turning into permanent structures were supposed to have been shifted to the SDA’s shopping complexes. Rebuilding them, therefore, cannot be justified under any circumstances. The devastation caused by the floods should not be allowed to become a blessing in disguise for unscrupulous elements.
Granted that the issue is a sensitive one, as lives and livelihoods are involved, but a state of contrived lawlessness makes things only worse for the most vulnerable.