Kashmir’s first skewed bridge coming-up over river Jhelum and its banks – locally called The Bund used by British as leisure walkways before Independence – has triggered a debate in valley over its developmental benefits and environmental losses.
While nature lovers feel that the concrete bridge will mar the beauty of the green landscape and heritage structures on the river banks, those supporting it believe that the construction will ease the alarming traffic congestion of the city.
The 170-meter bridge, passing over the river in the middle of Srinagar city, is being constructed by Jammu and Kashmir Projects Construction Corporation (JKPCC) at an estimated cost of 10-crore rupees and will be completed in three years.
“It is a double-lane concrete structure aimed to join the two roads which line the two opposite banks of the river. The bridge will be Kashmir’s first skewed bridge as the openings of the roads don’t coincide,” JKPCC general manager, Farooq Bulla told Hindustan Times.
The Bund with its splendid lawns, scented flowers and lined with magnificent Chinars was one of the choiced walkways since the time of Dogra rulers in valley. When the Britishers entered India, it was the most well-known address for them in Srinagar. So much was the government careful of its fragile beauty that even cycles were not allowed to ply on the Bund.
With its architectural buildings, made of carved wood and chiseled stone, the walkway served the dual purpose of pleasure and leisure while shopping marvelous Kashmiri handicrafts.
“After Mughals, the most impressive architectural interventions in Kashmir were made by the British during the period of Dogras. One of the most fascinating shopping zones of Srinagar, ‘The Bund’ was shaped during the period under the influence of British,” narrates Fida Iqbal, a landscape architect working for Jammu & Kashmir Tourism Department.
“And if the bridge will come up, it will disturb the whole setting of this unique blend of nature and heritage. The obnoxious structure will never blend with this urban landscape,” Iqbal asserts.
Superintendent of Traffic Police, Haseeb-u-Rehman believes that the bridge will provide an alternate route to ease the congestion in the city being divided into two parts by the river flowing through. “It will provide a huge relief to common people,” Rehman
Kashmir convener of Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH),Saleem Beigh disagrees. “We can’t plan a bridge in isolation. We need to see its visual aesthetics and mobility issues as well,” Beigh said.