Srinagar: Regarded as a posh colony for its ambiance and environs, the Balgarden locality in uptown here presents the look of a ghost area, with abandoned houses, collapsed buildings and muck- filled streets following devastative floods that hit Srinagar early this month.
Established in early ‘60s, Balgarden with mud and brick houses was considered to be one of the best planned colonies of this capital city with adequate facilities including clean drinking water supply, better road connectivity and drainage system.
However, rampant encroachment and illegal constructions along Doodh Ganga canal in the neighbourhood took away the charm of this posh locality, prompting most of the inhabitants to migrate to other areas.
“Balgarden was the posh colony of Srinagar. It had the best facilities. However, encroachment and illegal construction along the Doodh Ganga flood channel turned it ugly,” senior journalist Morifat Qadri, who was born and lives in Balgarden, told Kashmir Reader.
“The encroachment happened under the nose of Srinagar Municipal Corporation which is at a stone’s throw from the canal. The officials in league with land mafia encroached upon the flood canal and raised huge buildings,” he added.
Qadri, whose house has also suffered extensive damage in recent floods, said that 75 percent of the locality had shifted following rampant encroachments and commercialization of the colony.
Recalling the fateful day of September 7, Qadri said that Balgarden was submerged by gushing water within 30 minutes. He said he didn’t even get time to save any household goods or belongings.
“My priority was to take my family to a safer place. I don’t know how I managed to leave my house in gushing waters,” said Qadri, who is currently staying with his brother.
Iqbal Javed Khan, another resident of Balgarden, has been putting up with his neighbours for the last two weeks after his three-storey house collapsed, three days after the floods hit the area on September 7.
“Twenty-five people from five families were putting in the house. The floods left us homeless,” said Khan, who works as store keeper in the CAPD department.
He said the floods caught everyone by surprise and didn’t give the residents time to pick up valuables and household goods. He said the locals braved the gushing waters and took their families to safer places.
“It was like a doomsday,” he added.
It’s not only those people who were left homeless by the food fury who are perturbed; there are people whose houses suffered extensive damage.
“My two-storey house with attic is on the verge of collapse. The inner walls have already trembled. It will be suicidal to live in that house again,” said Iftikhar Ahmed Khan, a banker.
He said he has already obtained a housing loan for the renovation of his house which remains unpaid. The latest damages caused by the floods, Khan said, might force him to raise the loan again.
“I intend to reconstruct the house again. It’s not livable. I might have to raise loan again,” said Khan, who along with his wife and two minor children left their submerged house on the morning of September 7.
President Mohalla committee Balgarden, Zahoor Ahmad, told Kashmir Reader that over 20 houses have been completely damaged, while nearly a hundred were rendered unsafe by the flash floods.
“Over 150 houses have also suffered partial damages, like cracks. This colony needs to be rebuilt for the damages it has suffered,” he added.