The Srinagar Smart City project aims at achieving a lot, but at the cost of something hard to regain. However, without anyone pausing to pause, reflect, or raise concerns, the authorities are implementing drastic changes in the city that are not only bulldozing its appearance but are adding to the already clogged picture Srinagar presents. In particular, the city centre, along with Poloview, Residency Road, and Maulana Azad Road, is where one can only find dust and piles of debris, standing dismantled for infusing in them the soul of ‘smartness’, God knows how and why!
Residency Road and Maulana Azad Road, as well as the area close to and around the clock tower, are currently suffering the most as the so-called planners of the city are out to cut the space for vehicles to ply by resorting to making the roads narrower and making extra space for who knows what. The way things are being done in practice raises severe concerns about the vision and aptitude of the decision-makers as well as the experts who are recommending the changes, which paradoxically are being adopted without even considering their viability and impact. Is there a plan for starting the e-vehicles on city roads for which the space for regular vehicles is being shrunk? Do we already have a chosen one who is going to deploy these e-vehicles in the city and make quick money?
It might be anything, but what must be recognised and accepted is that the Smart City’s planning and design are not in the hands of skilled and knowledgeable individuals. We can say with certainty, based on what we see on the ground, that the project is riddled with errors, and if the necessary course correction is not done on time, what we will have with the completion of the project, could come running hard back at us with its mouth wide open to gulp the city—which has its indigenous design and culture—down for never to regain its original shape and structure.
Individuals working on the project’s back end may be specialists in their disciplines, but they cannot compare Srinagar to any other city in the country because it is unique and requires a design that matches it and its people. They must know that the city will not like rampant and unplanned concretization, nor will it go well with its roads being choked and shrunk. It has its manner that must be maintained, and any changes must be in rhythm with it rather than out of it. The office of the Lieutenant Governor, Manoj Sinha must investigate what is happening in Srinagar. Government must act early and thoroughly examine the plans and designs, which look to be riddled with flaws at the moment. Any reform must add to the essence of the city rather than kill it, as appears to be the objective of the Srinagar Smart City project.
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