Spring rains expose Kashmir’s faulty infrastructure

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In December last year, Srinagar’s Amar Singh College achieved a rare feat, the 80-year-old structure became one of the seven conservation projects to be recognized with the 2020 UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation.

It was a proud moment for teachers, staff, and students of the college, many felt that it would bring more tourists to the college to see the heritage building as the building was included in one of the oldest heritage buildings of Kashmir valley.

Professor Tariq Ashai had told the media that the ambiance and construction of the college building have been recognized by UNESCO.

“It was only possible because of the students and the faculty members of the college. We now have the responsibility to preserve the infrastructure and beauty of this building,” he had added.

Come March and the picturesque college was again in news, this time though for turning into a lake after rains drenched the Kashmir valley.

Photographs of students treading knee-deep waters in the campus to reach their classrooms went viral on social media drawing ridicule and angst towards the administration.

Similar scenes were witnessed across Kashmir and more importantly in the summer capital of the region which has been dubbed as a smart city.

The deluge leads to the suspension of classwork in several areas of the valley with many schools witnessing less attendance, “It was impossible to walk through the knee-deep submerged lawn of the school. So we decided to stay at home till there is some improvement in the weather,” Insha, a class 12th student at Kothibagh girls school was quoted as saying by a local news gathering agency.

That a rainfall for a couple of days leads to failure of drainage and other systems once again laid bare the tall claims of the government that has been talking about development in the region, especially after the abrogation of article-370 in August 2019, “Is this the development that Prime Minister and Home Minister had promised?” Shakeel Ahmad a resident of the Jawahar Nagar area asked as he walked in the knee-deep waters.

Concerns were also raised by various political parties of the valley, “Official apathy is behind waterlogging woes of Kashmir,” said Apni Party president and senior politician Altaf Bukhari.

Bukhari said that in the aftermath of the incessant rainfalls, the whole valley appears to have inundated and the administration seems to be impervious in its response to this grave issue which has forced most of the residents in Srinagar to remain confined inside their houses.

“The administrative apathy has unleashed the flood-like conditions in the whole valley, especially in Srinagar. I have been raising the issue of drainage failure in Srinagar city since 2014 but no concrete steps are being taken to address this problem permanently,” Bukhari observed.

He further said the available dewatering system in Srinagar is extremely mediocre and the government should focus on the up-gradation of human resources and machinery of Srinagar Municipal Corporation so as to enable it to cope up with these challenging situations.

“The dredging of river Jhelum is being carried out at snail’s pace, dewatering systems are run-of-the-mill and the condition of the drainage system is awfully horrendous. The government must come up with a comprehensive drainage plan under Smart City Project otherwise these flash-flood conditions will be perpetually burgeoning,’’ he said.

Earlier in February, National Conference had called for upgrading of Srinagar to ensure sustained improvements in the quality of services being provided to people, saying the need of the hour calls for having an effective drainage system integrated with city development.

The most pressing issues Srinagar was facing is the ever-expanding space needs of its urban population, but also augment the existing infrastructure of the city, YNC President Salman Ali Sagar had said

He stated the anticipated change should be sustainable and in sync with the needs of the inhabitants of the city. “The anticipated urban awakening of Srinagar should be marked by ensuring long term and short term plans to deal with water drainage. The situation of the drainage network is appalling across the city and the situation in Solina locality is no different,” he made the comments while touring various areas of Solina ward in Srinagar.

However, nothing of that sort seems to be happening on the ground and people continue to suffer. Others become anxious fearing the situation of the 2014 floods, “Administration claims to be prepared for every calamity, but we saw what happened in 2014. They are not able to clear little water, how will they be able to overcome the deluge, I am afraid we are doomed,” said Mohammad Haneef a resident of Rajbagh Srinagar.

Haneef was among dozens of residents of Rajbagh whose house was damaged in the 2014 disaster. “ We are at the mercy of God,” he concluded.

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