The directionless modus operandi of the government- unregulated and illegal constructions adding to the vulnerability of flood prone Srinagar

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Last year’s catastrophe has sabotaged the life of over 14 lakh people across the valley. With their homes, lives, property ruined they are still struggling and suffering empty handed with shallow hopes. The previous government has rebuffed their hopes, the new coalition of PDP BJP, however seemed trustworthy enough to be casted on the mainstage.

Seven months have passed for the victims and nearly two for the government but the chaos has not dimmed a bit. A few days ago, the valley was again lashed with the flood-like threat and the residents as well as officials expressed that the effect of these calamities was aggravated by many ill factors tormenting the region, such as chaotic planning, illegal constructions, encroachments along the Jhelum river, fragile embankment, unplanned and illegal rise of colonies and constructions and the loss of many wetlands in the devastating floods of September.

Unplanned and Illegal constructions are rising in the region from the last two decades as Srinagar is pacing towards urbanization. A large number of colonies and houses have come up without any permit from the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC). This phenomenon is on rise after the militancy broke out late in 1989. The structures started coming up in fields, marshy lands and even on Dal lakes. Not only residential building but official buildings have also been constructed in the prohibited government. The offices of Srinagar Development Authority itself are built on marshy land in Bemina. Offices including Haj House, Housing and Urban Development Department, J&K State Board of School Education, Forensic Science Laboratory and also a city hospital have come up in this area. There has been a massive construction in the residential colonies from the last two decades as well.

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The illegal construction was majorly because of the price rise of the land in the region. Filling up the land, bribing the officials and constructing houses and building on the marshy or paddy lands has added to the matter. With numerous land mafias operational in the state the prices rose 12 to 15 times since 1990 and hence people and officials turned towards the usage of illegal lands. Also, internal migration from rural areas to the city created more market for this illegal construction. According to a survey reported in The Tribune, the J&K government has identified over 3,000 unauthorized structures in Srinagar city alone that had come up in violations of the Srinagar Master Plan-2021, which is currently being revised. The government has rather introduced a Bill in the Assembly to protect the authorized structures than to demolish them. The illegal constructions have taken place in the low-lying areas, triggering the vulnerability of areas with already a low water retention capacity. The illegal rise in encroachments has also resulted in choked drains and just a few inches of rainfall can sink the city roads. There has been no direction on how to develop and manage the city despite such massive losses in the past few months. To think about the city growth, it is essential for the government to look into the matter and reflect in productive and feasible terms to hold the issue and regulate the city.