(Mr. Mohammad Shafi Ayaz, 47, was born in Anantnag, and continues to live in the same town. He studied in various state schools, colleges and universities. He has completed his MBA, and is a Certified Associate of the Indian Institute of Bankers(CAIIB), and is working on a doctorate thesis on “Non Performing Assets in Indian Banks." He is a banker and presently associated with the Jammu & Kashmir Bank as Senior Executive. Mr. Ayaz has three publications - two in Urdu, one comprising of fictions/short stories titled as “Dard-i-Pinhan” (Hidden Pain), and the third comprising of poetry titled as “Talash-i-Sahar”(In Search of Dawn). He has also published another short book in “Interest Free Banking.” He writes on various topics in the Daily Kashmir Images, Weekly Shuhab and Weekly Sabzar. Earlier he contributed articles to two leading Urdu dailies of the Valley - ‘Aftab’ and ‘Srinagar Times’.
Mr. Shafat Ahmed Reshi, 46, was born in Brane, Nishat, Srinagar. He completed his basic schooling from Shaheen Public School, Srinagar, and his advanced schooling from MPML Higher Secondary School, Srinagar. He completed his diploma in civil engineering from the J&K Government Polytechnic, Srinagar, and a planning diploma in Town and Country Planning from the Central Institute of Tecchnology, Chennai. He is employed in the State Roads & Buildings Department in town planning organization. He works on traffic management issues. Highly conscious about preserving Kashmir's environment, Mr. Reshi is a member of the "Tree Talk Campaign" and "Green Kasheer.")
The Pros and Cons of Water Transport
Kashmir valley has seen a huge rise in the number of vehicles in a quick time while the roads, which are now being worked upon and widened, are mostly in the same condition as several decades ago. As a result, traffic jams and, thus, inconvenience to masses remain inevitable fact of life and the absence of any relevant alternative, in the proverbial sense, adds insult to the injury.
As per the reports, more than 70 thousand vehicles are added to the transport flat in the valley, every year, while the roads are neither widened nor constructed in the same ratio. As of now, nine lakh vehicles, including passenger and load carriers are plying on roads in the state and, on the other hand, roads are subject to encroachments almost everywhere. People involved in this encroachment are, unfortunately, enjoying some sort of silent consent for this illegal act as no authority is coming forward to evacuate them or take some strong action against them.
Though the issue should never be marginalized to the official action alone, the civil society too must share the responsibility. Having said so, the absence of civil initiatives should, in no way, be taken as a license, by the authorities, for doing nothing as the issue is of common interest of the people of the state.
The authorities have no excuse for not going ahead with a strong and sustained campaign to make sure that the roads, whatever we have, are fully available for the transport and no encroachers are allowed to take liberty with the public property. They have to act as per the law of the land-something they are being paid for.
Formation of a viable and futuristic traffic management policy must be devised to offer some respite to the people of this valley who are subjected to an everyday traffic jam and great inconvenience. The construction of new roads, development of existing roads, identification of parking places, number of vehicles of various modes, identification of alternate transport ways etc, should be covered under this policy. Knowing that we have a limited train route and there is no other alternate transport route, the authorities must take all such limitations into consideration and come up with a viable policy for the expediency of masses.
Most of our youngsters may not know that Kashmir valley, particularly the city, was once known as the ‘Venice of East’, a title offered to it for its bountiful water brooks, streams and rivers which ran through the city connecting almost every part of it. The scenario has, ofcourse, changed and we have successfully destroyed most of the water marvels, tough the title remains!
Now that the government has realized that we could utilize water transport to ease the traffic mess on our roads, the idea appears good and equally amusing as well. Though we have river Jehlum which can be a huge route when it comes to connecting various districts, most of our water channels have vanished. Hoping against hope, the water transport, if at all perceived in an appropriate manner and executed properly, people might actually see a little betterment in the overall transportation scenario.
Like road, water transport has been around for thousands of years. The first kinds of water transport were probably some sorts of canoes cut out from tree trunks. Thought this type of transport is, stupidly, considered as the slow transport in an age of motor boats and engine oriented houseboats which can row at a relatively higher speed, it can be of great significance for the masses. Above all it is something, we are historically used to.
Khanabal to Khadanyar- a well known water route is still used, though ironically, in phrases alone in Kashmir, one must see the glimpses of the famousness of such a way of transportation in Major T.R. Swinbure’s book ‘A Holiday in the Happy Valley’ who has given an interesting account of the position and usage of water transport in the valley. He has visited the valley in 1906 A.D. and till that the water transport has been the main means of transportation in the valley. He has been a government guest in the valley and has travelled from Srinagar to Bijbehara in a boat. “The upper reaches of Jhelum are not widely or excitingly lovely. The narrowed waters like sweet Thames, run softly between quiet British banks, willow veiled……… It was well into the evening and the sun had just set, throwing a glorious rosy flush over the snows which surrounded the Lidder Valley, when we came to the picturesque bridge which crosses the stream at Bejbehara. The scene here was charming—a grand festa or religious Tamasha being toward, the whole river was swarming with boats—great doungas…… large shikaras darted in and out…….” He narrates.
The recent announcement by government authorities to start water transport initially from Panthchowk to Qamarwari, in Srinagar, is seen as a right initiative, although a little late. Such a means of transportation can be cheap and viable for the masses who would definitely prefer to row-in in a boat instead of boarding a bus or a Sumo.
If tackled and initiated with innovative mind, this mode of transportation will surely bring a new dimension to our traffic scenario and would also create employment opportunities to so many unemployed persons besides adding to the tourist attractions. Tourists would definitely like this type of transport and would, gradually, push the government to think about bringing the Jhelum river to its original shape and pristine glory.
But there are challenges to this type of transportation as well and the authorities, when drafting the policy, must be mindful of all such issues. We have already polluted our water bodies and rivers to a serious extent and going by the set standards, we may ruin the remaining water bodies as well. Steps should be taken to asses and analyze all sorts of mechanisms that would be involved in initiating water transport. It demands great care and sensitivity to make use of the gifts of nature and preserve them as well.
- With reference to a news
item in your esteemed paper that of Jhulem transport or water transport as an
alternative means of transportation in Srinagar city is not only a great idea
but solution to number of problems like frequent traffic jams, bad traffic mess
, pollution both air as well as noise, wastage of time and energy .
- This is
the best idea which has been put in place by the administration with the help of
some private agencies as part of rapid transport system (R T S) in the city of
Srinagar which is witnessing worst example of traffic engineering in the whole
world ,. .It not only provides an environment friendly transport but link us
with our age old heritage and culture also. Besides it will ease pressers on our
roads which are under sized as compared to the population needs.
- Fifty per
cent infrastructure is already in place in the shape of river bank gaths with
beautiful ornamental Devri stone work connecting major Mohallas, main markets,
major religious places old Khan-Khah and shrines, temples, historical monuments
like Mujahid Manzil ,old Secretariat, Zaina Kadal, Budshah Tomb ,Nawa Kadal,
women’s college and many more up to veer, which need some minor repairs and
- This proposal need to be given a final shape to achieve much
needed alternative transportation in the valley as proposed by a renowned
Transport Planner, Hakeem Ifftikar Ahmed, now Chief Town planner submitted in
his proposal report earlier.
- It will fulfill the purpose of short excursions
and local sightseeing to local residents as well as the tourists as was done
before. Tourists will definitely like this type of transportation which will
provide them a vivid perspective of the historical sites including Shahr-e-Khas
and Nager Nager. LOC trade will get a boon when this will be extended to other
districts like Sopore and Baramulla to Uri in the west and from Islamabad
(Anantnag) in the east in the fore coming phases of extensions. With this, the
main life line of Kashmir, THE JEHULM RIVER, will also get some more attention
for its preservation, conservation , beautification.
- Shafat Ahmad Reshi