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Urban expansion

Editorial CAITLYN SAMPLEY AGGIE


Srinagar dwells at 1,800 metres above the sea level. It is geographically a compact piece of land decked with mountains, water bodies and lush green forests.  The city is encircled by a sub mountain branch of Pir Panjal range. In the east, it is bounded by Zanskar Mountains, the part of which is the famous Dachigam sanctuary with Mughal gardens on its edge. The lakes Dal and Nigeen brace the city from the northeast. The hillocks, Takth-i-Suluiman (Shankaracharya), and Kohi-Mareen (Hariparbat) are in the south east and centre of the city respectively. In the northwest, we have Lake Anchar and the marshy stretch of Palapora. Similarly, Namble-i-Narkura and Karewa Damodar (uplands) are located in the south east of the city. Through the heart of it flows River Jhelum. With this natural setting, Srinagar is constrained to expand laterally. It is thus forced to either spill over in other districts or convert its own agricultural land, marshes and water bodies for unplanned urbanization. Over the years, the city has witnessed huge growth in area as well as population. As per a research paper titled ‘Influence of Urbanization on the Land Use Change: A Case Study of Srinagar City’ published in the American Journal of Research Communication, the city, which was spread just over 12 square kilometres in 1901, has swollen to 416 square kilometres by 2011. Similarly, with just over 1.2 lakh city dwellers in 1901, the population grew manifold to go beyond 12 lakh by 2011. If the trend of area and population growth continues, the city would encroach upon the neighbouring tehsils of Budgam, Chadoora, Pampore and Ganderbal. The possibilities of lateral expansion of the city are not so encouraging given the natural barriers of mountains, marshes and water bodies. The sprawl of the city leaves a marked impact on the land use pattern. The transformation has severely affected the extent of agricultural land, forest cover, water bodies, and marshy areas. The agricultural area in Srinagar has declined from 20390.89 hectares (68.85 %) in 1979 to 14147.72 hectares (47.77 %) in 2010, indicating a decrease of 6243.17 hectares.  Similarly, the area under forest has also shown a decrease from 387.93 hectares 1.31 percent in 1979 to 194.94 hectares (0.66%) in 2010, indicating a decrease of 192.99 hectares during this period. The population growth has also shown its influence on the marshy areas and barren areas of the city. In 1979 the total area under marshy area was 1635.22 hectares (5.52 %) which decreased to 400.14 hectares (1.35%) in 2010, indicating the loss of 1235.08 hectares during this period. The area under water bodies of the city including Dal, Nigeen, Jhelum, Brari nambal, Tailbal Nallah and Harwan water reservoir, has decreased from 1887.67 hectares (6.37%) in 1979 to 1483.38 hectares (5.01%) in 2010, showing the decrease of 1.37 percent. Given the frenzied construction to satiate urban ghetto living, the city has also lost a substantial green cover. One hardly finds a tree in old city and Batamaloo, the areas which form a large portion of the city. These areas are equally congested and hardly leave any space. What aggravates the issue is the lack of any government or civil society initiative towards planting more trees. The population growth has changed the internal morphology of the city. Srinagar has a sizable portion of flood prone and low-lying mostly around the Dal Lake. These areas are not suited for city expansion and development but have experienced widespread residential expansion. Thus, there is an urgent need to look into the unplanned urban expansion not only within the city but also in the surrounding areas.