Making Srinagar a liveable city
With much being said and reported about Srinagar Smart City project, Government’s Ease of Living Index’ (EoLI) for the year 2020 puts the city on the 49th number out of 49 cities ranked on the liveability index in the more than million population category. There are five fundamental aspects of great, liveable cities: robust and complete neighborhoods, accessibility and sustainable mobility, a diverse and resilient local economy, vibrant public spaces, and affordability. The physical characteristics that contribute to the liveability of cities include land use, built form, quality and conservation of public spaces and natural environments, efficiency of transport networks, accessibility to work, education, health and community services and social and recreational opportunities. And unfortunately, the Srinagar city lacks in all these spheres. The exponential growth, over the years, has resulted in several problems that the people of Srinagar are facing. These include overcrowding, traffic congestion, shortage of drinking water, erratic power supply, inadequate sanitation facilities, failing sewerage systems, inadequate waste management, increasing pollution, so on and so forth. As per official records, Srinagar has only 650 km extended drainage system, meant to drain out storm water and sewage, which is 1000 km short of the actual requirement. This is the reason that even a normal drizzle results into water logging drowning the roads, lane and by-lanes of the city. Similarly, the city has a motorable lane network of more than 1,800 kilometers, while as the machines required for snow clearance during winter season are much lesser than what is needed.
Most of the city dwellers have pinned their hopes with much publicized smart city project. It is true that the government has several plans and projects in hand but point is the execution of such projects. Given past experience, the skepticism of the populace could not be termed as ill-founded as the people have witnessed announcements about massive projects which never got completed in a time-bound manner. The Smart City project is the most ambitious of all the projects and was launched, as a part of Smart City Mission, by the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) Gol. It comprises of two parts; Area Based Development and Pan City Solutions, which was approved in April 2017. Though the project has the potential to tackle most of the problems faced by the people in Srinagar, the implementation and the pace of work would determine the future of the project. The concerned authorities are on record that 23 development projects under this programme have been completed and work is continuing on 21 projects. They claim that all these projects are running under a fixed schedule and, with the improvement in the weather conditions, the government is planning to go for double shift work on some of these projects to increase the pace of the work. So far so good, but some experts point out that project lacks sufficient technical and managerial capacity required for its proper implementation. They suggest that the project needs technical capacity and sufficient expertise for its proper implementation. The government and the concerned agencies should rope in the experts and get their suggestions about the implementation part of the project. They should encourage public engagement that could evolve a support mechanism for running the components of the projects so that the project is democratized not bureaucratized.