Master Plan 2001-2021 damaged Srinagar’s heritage, old city: new master plan report

Master Plan 2001-2021 damaged Srinagar’s heritage, old city: new master plan report

SRINAGAR: Srinagar’s built heritage and historic monuments, especially in the old city, were rendered as “violations” of municipal laws by the master plan under which the city was being developed for the past 18 years. Implementation of such flawed policy led to the “dilapidation” of the old city and “adversely affected” urban design. This has been pointed out in the report of the Srinagar Metropolitan Plan (SMP) 2035, which was recently approved by the State Administrative Council (SAC) headed by Governor SP Malik.
The new master plan is the third that has been approved for the city since 1970. The first master plan, from 1971 to 1991, was extended for the next ten years. A second master plan came into effect for 2001-2021, but has now been interrupted by the new one.
The new master plan identifies how road-widening projects ended up classifying ancient structures as violations of building laws or encroachments on city roads. Civic institutions including Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) and Srinagar Development Authority (SDA) were responsible for enforcing and continuing the flawed policy, the SMP 2035 report says.
“There was a plan holiday kind of scenario from 1991–2001 and the Master Plan 1991 was illogically extended up to 2001… The Master Plan 1971-91 was more succinct and elaborate in understanding the city of Srinagar in comparison to the Master Plan 2000-21. However, both the Master Plans failed to give Srinagar a safe direction,” reads the new document.
According to the report, the failure may also be attributed to archaic institutional structure of urban local bodies including SMC and the SDA, departments entrusted with the implementation of the Master Plans.
“Prescription of building line for the roads in the core city, where historically (the) building line merges with the right of way, thereby most of the buildings having come up adjacent to the road becoming a violation,” the report says.
“The Circular Road Project which preceded the first master plan was subsumed in the master plan with the proposals for widening of roads in the core city involving the acquisition of structures, adversely affecting the urban design and the built heritage of city,” the report says and adds that the circular road project is not even 50% complete after the elapse of almost five decades.
The building byelaws, the report says, should never have been applied to the heritage core city, as they provided for limited ground coverage, FAR and fixed building line, all of which were applied to the core city and led to its dilapidation.
“This was compounded by persistent neglect, two decades of turbulence, absence of heritage policy incentivising the conservation of heritage in the core city,” the report says.