(Er. Mohammad Ashraf Fazili, 68, was born in Srinagar. He received his early schooling from the Government Middle School, Nowhatta, Srinagar, and from M.P. High School, Baghi Dilawar Khan in Srinagar. Mr. Fazili completed his F.Sc. from the Sri Pratap College in Srinagar, and received his Bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering from the Annamalai University with honours grade. He joined the J&K government service upon graduation and steadily rose up the ranks to the position of Chief Engineer at his retirement. He managed a number of important infrastructure projects during his government service, including the Model Town Chrar-i-Sharif, Lower Jhelum Hydro Electric Project, Solid Waste Disposal Scheme Srinagar City, Circular Road Project Srinagar City, etc. He has numerous publications to his credit, including Srinagar the Sun City, Our Ancestors and Saints of Kashmir, etc., which were presented in seminar and symposia. He writes for various journals and is presently working on the Jhelum Valley Civilization.)
City Must go for Vertical Expansion! During the past about 23 centuries, Srinagar has been witness to many transformations, be it in its nomenclature or location with changing rulers like Purana Dishthina (old capital) –now Pandrethan to Parvarpora near Koh-e- Maran hillock to Parihaspora near Pattan to Budgair, Ala-ud-din Pora near Khanqah-e-Moalla and then to Nowshehra about 03 KMS away on north of City.
The main City, however, grew on the either banks of river Jhelum. Dogra rule paid more attention to development of infrastructure like Banihal Cart Road, Jhelum Valley Cart Road, Boulevard on Dal fringe besides expansion of City with new housing colonies like Wazir Bagh, Ram Munshi Bagh, Karan Nagar and institutions like SP College, Amar Singh College and SMHS Hospital.
From 1947 onwards the City has witnessed a faster growth but mostly in an unplanned manner. Part population was accommodated in housing colonies like Jawahar Nagar, Balgarden, Nursingh Garh, Shutra Shahi, Batamaloo, Chanapora and Bemina etc, all built up in public sector.
Srinagar Municipality came into being under Municipal Act 1886. In 1960, Municipality covered an area of mere 28 Sq KMs. The limits of Municipality were extended adding the adjoining villages. And in 2000, the area covered was about 177 sq KMs. The City extends along Jhelum over a length of 20 KMs and an average depth of 5 KMs on either side of the river Jhelum.
Lateral expansion: The development of lateral expansion has its constraints as it is bounded by Zabarwan hills from Nagabal to Gagribal on east and north. On south there are uplands of Pampore Karewah and Damodar Karewah under saffron cultivation and airport activity respectively. The other uplands on south have witnessed earthquakes in the past. On the south-west side there are small Karewahs of Khushipora and Zainakote, beyond which lies flood absorption basin named Hokarsar. On the west there lies a vast water body of Anchar lake and Khushhalsar. Land area between Hokarsar and Anchar lake is agricultural, which is heavily under pressure of urban expansion along Srinagar- Baramulla highway and the Srinagar- Wayil road. During the past few decades urbanization has taken place on agricultural lands upto Ganderbal on the north, upto Pampore on the south and upto airport and Narbal on the west.
Since the agricultural lands are squeezing, government has called a ban on the change of land use from agricultural to residential and saturation point is approaching when there will be left no land for lateral expansion. The only alternative left shall be the vertical expansion. The present restriction of 50 ft height for hotels etc shall have to be relaxed. Construction of high-rise buildings shall have to be made possible by providing the strong designed foundations for the soils generally having low bearing capacity of half a ton per sq ft. Besides, the physical impediments on lateral and vertical development of Greater Srinagar are reported to be overcome to a great extent by adopting the zonal regulations prescribed in the current Master Plan.
It has been emphasized that in the new areas the preparation of zonal /area development plans shall precede building operation of any kind and no permission shall be accorded unless the zonal/area development plan is approved by the competent authority within the policy framework described in the Master Plan. The approval of Master Plan was to be immediately followed by the preparation of zonal plans, but it is now since 12 years that the authorities are still thinking of a review and have invited public opinion once again. In fact no time should be lost for implementation of the regulations to arrest the haphazard growth of the City. A citizen too is not going to wait endlessly for delayed finalization of the zonal plans due to the gross negligence of the authorities putting forth lame excuses and hence the violations are bound to take place to be compounded by minimal fines as per age-old Municipal laws.