A smart city. The phrase conjures up an overall improvement in the urban infrastructure with a better transportation service, drainage, delivery of utilities, and modern technology. Some time back the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) decided to rope in the service of a consultancy company to make a bid for the inclusion into the government of India’s Smart City Mission. As of now the SMC is seeking feedback from the people of Srinagar to make its bid a stronger one so that the city is approved for the upgrade.
Until November last year alone, the SMC had received 30,000 odd hits for the project, 200 suggestions through questionnaires, 450 e-mails and 500 suggestions. Given the importance of the public feedback in the project materialization, it’s important to know what and how the common people want the Srinagar city to be developed.
After the SMC claimed that under the Srinagar smart city plan, the old Srinagar city would be uplifted with special focus on ‘heritage tourism’ in the area. We decided to go around the city and ask the people what they wanted to be included in the proposal so that the city’s infrastructure at least become a notch better.
The locals say that the preservation should not be at the cost of the environment.
Khalid Bashir, a youth from the Khanyar area of downtown, says that the old city which is known for its heritage sites, the same should be preserved. Given the aggravated vulnerability of floods in the city especially after the 2014 inundation, he says the smart city project should focus on the dredging of Dal Lake as it acts as a sponge absorbing much of the flood waters. The smart city project, he says, should not clash with the government’s earlier project-Srinagar Master Plan. Traffic congestion, which is also engulfing the old city along with the city centre, he says, is turning out to be another major challenge which the smart city project should look into. The various road widening projects, some of which are in limbo “since 70’s” as per him, should be completed on priority basis.
In the backdrop of the 2005 earthquakes and the general vulnerability of the valley to the calamity, Khalid says that new residential houses in the old city are being constructed “randomly” with the safety measures that should be incorporated in the architecture, going to winds as per him. He says the project should ensure the safety of the houses in the city. Zafar Aafaq, another citizen blames the authorities of apathy towards the city’s upliftment.
“It takes an emotional attachment with the city to develop it like any other smart city at the grassroots level. That sense is lacking among the authorities here,” he says. Zafar says the work on the Rambagh flyover must be expedited as it’s turning out to be a hurdle in the traffic movement.
Besides lamenting the potholed roads, he also blames steep fall in the public transport in the city and hopes that the smart city project sets aside a special provision for the same to relieve people of the inconvenience they are suffering from presently. “There should be ample public transport within the city to ensure hassle free mobility.”
The inundation of the city even after a light drizzle that is another challenge, Nazir Gillo a youth from Sora locality says the city is in dire need of a drainage system. Focus on drainage. He says if the smart city project is really meant to give the citizens some relief then there should be focus on those projects that we are in immediate need of. The government, instead of getting entangled into newer “unnecessary” projects, he says, should expedite the work on the projects that are pending since years. The smart city project he says should also focus on the removal of encroachments by vendors from the city footpaths to ensure free pedestrian movement.
“They were removed last which was appreciated by people as it had relieved the city centre of traffic and pedestrian congestion. But we are back to square one again,” he said. Over the prospects of Srinagar getting a smart city berth, the SMC commissioner , Dr Shafqat Khan, calling the project “aggressive”, seemed optimistic though.
Talking to The Kashmir Monitor in December last year, Khan said the corporation was “positive” that the proposal will be approved by the union government. While claiming to have laid emphasis on “inter-departmental coordination”, Khan even proposed to “uniformly” paint the rooftops and city walls. The “aerial view” of the shabby rooftops of Srinagar while “on board flights”, he said invited “repugnance” .
“We will uniformly paint them so that they look more tidy”, he said. Not divulging anything more except the 17-page “final draft proposal”, a top official from VPV talking to The Kashmir Monitor said the company however hoped in getting the proposal through with at the centre. Asked whether VPV was expecting to replicate the results for Kohima for Srinagar, he said VPV was “more than optimistic”.
The final draft proposal to get Srinagar secure a berth in the Smart City Mission, a flagship programme of the Ministry of Urban Development, Government of India, under which over hundred Indian cities are expected to be developed as ‘smart cities’ is ready now. Voyants Partnering Vision (VPV) a consultancy company which has earlier helped Nagaland to secure a berth among smart cities for Kohima, was earlier roped in by the SMC promptly, expecting it to replicate the results for Srinagar. Meant to give the city some kind of relief, the proposal is currently in the public domain for the all important citizen feedback, which the SMC hopes will reinforce the city’s case in meriting a berth among the other Indian smart cities. The draft proposal, if approved, would be followed by a Detailed Project Report (DPR) to be submitted by the SMC later.
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