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Concrete Jungle

Construction on a frenzied war-like basis has made Srinagar and most townships in Kashmir a concrete jungle. In Srinagar, many feel a choke, lack of space to live. Commercial constructions mushrooming in residential spaces on an unprecedented scale have ruptured through social spaces. It is indicative of two things: greed and administrative failure. One expects the administration to keep a close watch on all constructions. Srinagar Municipal Corporation and Srinagar Development Authority, the two public bodies responsible for planning and regulation of the city are expected to keep vigil on the large-scale reconstruction process. On the contrary, things have gone out of control. Right under the nose of these administrative bodies, thousands of commercial properties have mushroomed in residential areas over the years. Cases have come to the fore in which building permissions meant for residential constructions were misused to build huge, ugly commercial structures right in the middle of mohallas and colonies.  However, in the garb of these building permissions for residential houses, scores of commercial constructions came up and still are, in residential areas like Jawahar Nagar, Rajbagh, Wazir Bagh, Mehjoor Nagar, Padshahi Bagh and many others. Allegations of corruption have been levied against both these public bodies. In fact credible sources within SMC reveal how right from lower rung to higher officials are hand-in-glove with those raising commercial structures. For every single construction, a specified amount of bribe ranging from a few thousand rupees to lakhs is allegedly paid beforehand by the perpetrators to get a clean chit. Areas like Rambagh, Barzulla, Baghat, Hyderpora, Pir Bagh, Sanat Nagar; all are witnessing a galore of commercial constructions with hardly any official interference. How is it possible that the authorities concerned missed out on such conspicuous irregularities? And more importantly, what would satiate the greed that pushes people to raise such structures? Once a city known for its lush green gardens, Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, is turning into a hotchpotch of unplanned constructions. While the development of urban infrastructure is moving at a brisk pace, the city has already lost valuable green cover. Green spaces like the Zabarwan hills, Kohi Sulauiman and Kohi Maran or Hari Parbat have turned into barren hillocks, while the foothills have seen a surge of residential construction. Srinagar is the not the only area with unplanned and disorganised expansion. Just 15 kms away from Lal Chowk, Chadoora Tehsil of District Budgam is racing alongside summer capital in violating the building codes. Once known for its rice and vegetable cultivation, Chadoora is fast giving space to commercial and residential structures built on paddy land. As a society, the definition of development is the most argumentative. While more money and luxury may superficially define it, the long-term effect of the rat race is going to be disastrous. Both greed and administrative failures need to be addressed. It is not just laws but also a matter of conscience. Humans need a place to live, not a congested space to just breathe.