Srinagar: Many who loved the murmuring mountain streams, pristine lakes, rivers and other water bodies in the Kashmir Valley are today living in their horror. The scars left behind by the unprecedented floods of September have changed the idiom and metaphor of the valley’s public discourse.
“Before the floods one sought lands along lakes, mountain streams and river banks to build private properties like houses, hotels, resorts and retreats,” said Soda Mir, 54, a land dealer in north Kashmir’s Ganderbal district.
“Today suddenly, the highlands and foothill areas are in focus of those planning to build a new place,” Mir told IANS.
Fortunately, Ganderbal has been the least affected district during the floods although a major tributary of the Jhelum, the Sindh stream, flows right through the middle of the district.
In the posh Srinagar localities of Rajbagh, Jawahar Nagar, Shivpora, Gogjibagh and Karan Nagar, where land fetched anything ranging from Rs.80 lakh to over Rs.1 crore for a Kanal (one-eighth of an acre), property dealers are spurning offers from sellers.
“Nobody is interested any more to buy properties in areas that got inundated during the floods. That is common sense, but what I fear is that for many years to come, the ghosts of the floods would haunt sellers, buyers and property dealers in those areas,” said Muhammad Sultan, a real estate dealer in the city.
“Today hardly anybody is talking in terms of buying real estate in the city and in places near a lake, mountain stream or a river,” said another property dealer here.
“Yes, there are many people who are by desperation driven to offer distress sales but there are no takers right now.”
Shops in uptown city markets of Lal Chowk, Hari Singh High Street, Residency Road and Maisuma had been the pride of their owners before the floods.
Subletting a shop in Lal Chowk would fetch a premium of over Rs.2 crore just for its possession value — before nature’s fury stunned Kashmir.
Today, shopkeepers in these most sought after commercial hubs are washing their shops of the mud and slush that invaded these prime commercial establishments.
“Restarting business is a far cry. Eid always used to be the busiest period for all of us. Eid shoppers would swarm shops, pavement dealers and makeshift bakery shops that would come up around the festival time,” said a dejected shopkeeper on Residency Road.
“Although Eid falls on Oct 6, the festivities have gone, the business has gone and so has the pride with which we walked into our shops,” he said, not wishing to be named.
Ironically, some unscrupulous people had started constructing new shops on the Regal Chowk lane of Residency Road believing the Srinagar Municipal Corporation would overlook the violation as it has its hands full vis-a-vis cleaning, sanitizing and dewatering the inundated areas in the city.
The authorities moved swiftly Tuesday to demolish these unauthorized constructions.
“It is a shame to even think of building an unauthorized structure when people are blaming the SMC for allowing unauthorized structures to come up at places many of which were the first to be submerged,” Nisar Hussain, a retired chief engineer here, told IANS.
The state government is seeking Rs.100,000 crore as central assistance. This is also cover losses suffered by private and public properties, livestock, agriculture and government infrastructure.
The floods killed 196 people in the Jammu region while 85 died in the valley.