An Urban Sprawl

An Urban Sprawl
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Srinagar city has, over time, morphed and mutated into a vast, differentiated urban sprawl. This concrete reality is at odds with the perception and fame of Kashmir, known as it is for its pristine and sublime beauty, with Srinagar city as its centre of gravity. The reasons and causes for what amounts to degradation and degeneration of the city are multifarious. First and foremost is the known “culprit”: demographics and population growth. This trend is broad based and is rather inevitable. Second, which is the concomitant of demographics is urbanization that also includes people movement from rural to urban areas. The third reason which flows from the first and the second is pressure on urban spaces and city spaces which has been dealt with rather poorly. The fourth is bad policy and paradigms thereof which has aggravated the underlying pressures and issues. Fifth, is corruption. And, fifth, last bit not the least, is people’s relationship to their land and urbanscapes. ( It may be stated here that by no means is this “list” exhaustive). Cumulatively, along with other assorted and germane reasons, Srinagar city and its environs are in the mess that is observed. The question is: can this urban mess be reversed? Or, can it be merely salvaged? Total and comprehensive reversal is well nigh impossible because of obvious reasons but a salvage jobs falls in the domain of the possible, eminently so. The question now is: how? The answer lies in an approach wherein people actually take ownership of urbanscapes and cityscapes. This has to be the gravamen of the approach to deal with the problems that clumsy and poor urbanization of Srinagar city presents. No amount of top down or merely administrative artifices or even genuine ones can resolve this issue. These can, at best, be complements to a peoples’ directed, oriented and inspired approaches. The people of Kashmir, especially the denizens of Kashmir must realize the importance of a well maintained, clean, vibrant and healthy urbanscape of Srinagar city. If when they do, the results can set off a precedent for other areas of Kashmir, for, generally speaking, it is the city itself that sets the tone for a given region. The same holds true for Kashmir and Srinagar city, in particular. The condition of the city is ominous. If it regresses and degenerates further, there might not be much left that is or can be salvaged.