Authorities in Srinagar are on an ambitious exercise to come up with a viable, transparent and foolproof master plan to cater to the needs and sustainability of the city with 5000 year of history.
The Srinagar Development Authority (SDA) on Monday concluded a three-day marathon meeting of experts, representatives of civil society, traders and students to pool ideas and suggestions to come up with an ideal Master Plan in a city that witnessed around 9,000 violation in the previous plan, significant numbers contributed by the authorities and officials themselves.
"We will have the most transparent Master Plan for the city where inputs will be taken from people and not any interest group. No tempering will be allowed," said SDA vice chairperson Salma Hamid.
However, fears are expressed by the civil society groups that the SDA might fall prey to the interest groups and eat into the vitals like forest areas of the city in Srinagar.
"The civil society will oppose any move to denotify the forest area without public scrutiny. Streams, lakes and meadows need to be demarcated and integrated into economic activity without affecting the ecological balance," said Shakeel Qalander, a senior member of the Kashmir Center for Social and Development Studies (KCSDS), a Srinagar-based civil society group.
Pointing out the follies of the SDA in implementing previous master pan, Qalander asked the planners to treat forests as natural factories and not mere timber suppliers. "The forests are to be treated as natural factories that produce air and balance to the environment. It's more vital and important than the man-made factories," said Qalander.
He pointed out the need to make the city an educational and medical hub. "But the SDA should desist from earmarking wetlands for such projects," he added.
National Monuments Authority member Saleem Beg made an elaborate presentation on the present scenario of the city, portraying a grim picture regarding the treatment meted to the cultural and natural heritages. "There is need to revisit the previous master plan. The new exercise should identify, list and document all types of the heritage sites," he said.
Beg, also convenor of Kashmir chapter of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), stressed the need to revive artisans clusters in the city.
Dr Amrander Sahoo, professor at the FLAME University Pune, suggested making local bodies economically viable to sustain the development of the city.
"By issuing bonds or making pooled finance with the government help, the local bodies need to become self sufficient," said Sahoo adding "the SDA can go for monetisation of land."
Several experts underlined the need to have a sustainable city with focus on preserving the local ethos and architecture.
The messy roadways and pedestrian walkways present in the city came under sharp criticism from the participants. The inefficient of the state administration to stop violations and implement land use as per the plan was criticised by the experts and the civil society.
Several speakers demanded that the new master plan should not be looked at in isolation by in sync with nearby districts of north and south Kashmir. "The master plan should be futuristic," said a speaker.