ESTD: 1886

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Srinagar City History

Srinagar city is located at an average elevation of 5400 meters above mean sea level and it is spread over in the heart of the oval shaped Valley of Kashmir. It is situated between 740-56’ and 750-79’ East Longitude and 330-18’ and 340-45’ North Latitude. The city as well as its hinterland is bounded by natural wall of mountains (sub-mountain branches of Pir Panjal Ranges and Zanskar mountains). In the east city is bounded by Zabarwan mountains with lush green vegetation, locating famous Dachigam Sanctuary and Mughal Gardens and is environed by the shallow and swampy lakes of Dal and Nagin with the eminence of hillocks of Takth-i-Suliman in the east and Kohi-Maraan (Hariparbat) in the centre adding  to its beauty and making surroundings of the city invigorating.
Regional Setting
Srinagar is well connected with other District Headquarter Towns, Tourist Resorts, Ladakh and Jammu Division of the State. Because of its locational advantage of being located in the heart of Kashmir Valley, it has acquired greater degree of centrality despite the constraints which the surroundings and physiography of the region pose to the physical growth of the city.  Being the capital city and the largest urban settlement, it has become hub of major administrative, political, economic, commercial and other activities. It also acts as major tourist destination and terminating centre in Kashmir Valley. It constitutes 73.18 per cent of the urban population of Valley and 48.55 per cent of the urban population of the State which has given its complete supremacy in urban settlement system in Kashmir with pronounced regional urban primacy.
The city enjoys a sub-Mediterranean type climate with severe winters and moderate summers associated with relatively higher humidity throughout the year varying from 78 per cent to 91 per cent (minimum 45 per cent). Normally the temperature ranges between 29C to 34C, occasionally touching the highest 39 C in summer and in winter temperature varies from 5 C to 10 C. About the wind direction, northerly, north-westerly kms per hour. However, interspersed hillocks and water bodies in and south-westerly winds are more predominant with an average wind velocity of 2 to 5 and around the city produce considerable micro-level variation in direction and speed of winds. The severe winter and moderate summer climate conditions are suited for low- rise high -density development of residential areas. The micro-climatic variation also plays a very important role in orientation and design of buildings.
Precipitation in the city is almost spread over throughout the year varying from 1.5 to 21 centimeters. During winter season, it is in the form of snow and sleet while as in the rest of the year it is in the form of rains and hail. As Srinagar is located in the Valley with large pockets in low-lying and flood prone areas, every year torrential and concentrated rains cause considerable damage to standing crops, houses and road infrastructure. Moreover, sanitary conditions in almost whole of the city which already is unsatisfactory, gets further aggravated during the constant and heavy rains.
Srinagar city stands on the valley floor with some expansion of urban activities on hill slopes, lowlying areas and Karewas. Hill slopes have mostly hard soil mixed with boulders, Karewas are characterised by Surzamin Soil, valley floor has Bahil (ill drained) and low-lying areas, Desan land (Saline) soil characteristics. The Bahil and Desan land soils have low bearing capacity (less 1/2 tons per sq. feets) which poses problem of construction of multi storey buildings.

Geology and Seismic Zones:
Geologically, Kashmir Valley has its own importance. It is said that the Valley has undergone many changes in its geological times and falls within the geological history of mountain building movements in the country. Whole of the Valley formed part of the Geosynclinal  Thethy’s even upto the Permain times when it was a region of calm and quite sedimentation and suffered many violent changes. Valley of Kashmir though a very small field of study in Geology reveals one of the finest developments of the stratified records of all ages from Archean and Pre-Cambrain onwards to Tertiary and Recent times.. Greater Srinagar or Planning area of the city which forms core of the valley presents an interesting physical morphology and peculiar personality. In south -east and south west it has Kerawas which is said to be lacustrine and fluviatile origin and upheld a strong mythological tradition of the existence of a vast lake“Satisar” occupying entire floor of the valley in the post tertiary period. These are characterised by ravines, canyons, thick deposits of   conglomerate, sand and gravel with alternate lamination of different colours and grains.
The Valley floor that form part of the city is filled with alluvium and fluvio-laustrine deposits cover nearly 90 per cent of city area. The present water bodies of Dal, Nagin, Manasbal and other wet areas are believed to be remnant of the “Satisar Lake”. These water- bodies have been segmented by the process of siltation and escaping of water. The geological history of the Valley also indicate the uplifting of the mountain ranges of which Zabarwan mountain is a part which acts as the major physical threshold for the expansion of the city in the east. It is characterized by abrupt changes in gradient, accompanied with factal spurs which is suggestive of recent mountain building process. Therefore, a note of caution is must while proposing future expansion of the city towards these directions, besides innovative measures need to be sought out to propose height of buildings and lateral expansion in its vicinity areas.
The natural drainage of the city is provided by three main rivers which are joined by small rivulets and canals. River Jhelum which enters Srinagar in the south-east flows through the city in serpetine manner with a number of meanders, leaving it in west after dividing city into two parts.It is around this river that the city has initially evolved and prospered, as a result Kashmir is often referred as “Water Civilization”.In the south city, drainage is provided by Doodhganga river which partly drains into Hokar Sar Wetland and partly directly into River Jhelum near Parimpora. In the north drainage is provided by the River Sindh which drains into Anchar lake and ultimately join River Jhelum.

The drainage water of old city including waste water of urbanized areas of the city is carried away by different canals/khuls which are connected with river Jhelum, Dal Lake, Nagin Lake, Brari Nambal and Khushal Sar. These khuls were initially used as communication lines and their waters were also used for irrigation, drinking and other domestic purposes. With the agglomeration of residences and other urban activities in their immediate vicinity and mushroom growth of house boats on the waters of these khuls, their physical grandeur has deteriorated, discharge/flow has choked, quality of water has been rendered unfit due to pollution generated by domestic wastes.
Historical Development:
The present day Srinagar City is the collection of period pieces and long period of time with rich and variegated history. Though the city has served as the capital of Kashmir throughout the ages and could not experience any significant growth during the ancient and the Medieval period mainly because of the political instability, internecine strifes between rulers and frequent changes in capital sites. However, the city has successfully survived against all odds mainly because of its centrality. The present day city has grown as a blend of number of ancient sites that had served as capital cities from time to time for various rulers. The present day socio-cultural artifacts of the city are expansion of the city since beginning of the century which has brought in its jurisdiction different capital sites. The genesis of Srinagar City has rich historical credentials as it has evolved and grown to its present complex structure after being considerably shaped by political and urban forces operating from ancient to the present period. Thus Srinagar is vivid testimony of one of the historical cities of the country reflecting the rich and complex historical background. The histogenesis of Srinagar City dates back to the pre-historic period when earliest process of humanisation is said to have started during the Neolithic period that has been established by the excavation of Burzahama and Harwan sites. These two sites and Srinagar are situated at the juxtaposition of Dal Lake.
In the later art of the Dogra rule (1900 A.D) Srinagar recorded some developmental and construction activities. The residency with its grotesque gardens, a number of educational institutions, first intermediate College (S.P. College, 1938) and Library were established. Potable water supply and modern means of transportation were also made available for the first time in the city which necessitated the construction of metal led road and accelerated the process of development in the city. The opening of cart road over Banihal pass and 196 km long Jhelum Valley cart road connecting Srinagar with rail-head at Rawalpandi (now in Pakistan) were also constructed. Silk Factory and Woollen Mills also were established (1921-31), besides this, medical facilities and other public utilities and services were also provided. It was also during the Dogra rule in 1886 that first Municpal  Act was passed. In  1913 a new Act introducing an elected element in constitution of local bodies of Srinagar was enacted. All these efforts geared up the development activities during Dogra rule which were made possible through the courtesy of Britishers proved of significant value because they not only helped in eradicating the epidemic diseases but also solved to a larger extent the socio-economic problems of the city.
During the modern period (1947-1997) the city recorded more or less an uninterrupted growth through successive and concerted efforts after launching Five Year Plans that marked a beginning of the Planning era in the State. The process further got strengthened, as it became the seat of power and summer Capital of the State. The development of most of the administrative, education and medical institutions and residential colonies in and around the commercial hub  (Lal Chowk) changed the form and  morphological structure of the city. The establishment of a number of education and medical institutions and a number of planned colonies viz Jawahar Nagar, Karanagar, Nursing Garh, Gogji Bagh, Batmaloo, Channapora, Bemina etc. have resulted to the extensive sprawl of the city limits.
Construction of Bye Pass road, establishment of Fruit Mandi at Parimpora, Hindustan Machine Tools (HMT) factory at Zainakote, State Industrial Complex at Zewan and Khanmoh in south east and sub-urbanisation of the city with the intentions of establishing satellite townships at Zakura in north, Zawoora-Balhama in south east, Yayil Humhama (under process) in south west, the corporate limits of the city are likely to engulf the three small towns namely, Pampore, Badgam and Ganderbal with intervening areas in its jurisdiction forming part of its zone of immediate influence.
The impact of increased trade activities and tourism has brought significant transformation in the physical and socio-economic structure of city. Srinagar that initially was an administrative-cum-religious centre, has now been transformed into multi-functional city.
Heritage Areas:
Special features in the form of places of scenic beauty, buildings and monuments attributed to the invigorating surroundings and important events occurring in city’s socio-political life distinguish the city from the rest. Because of the rich historical past and bountiful natural setting, Srinagar is endowed with a number of such heritage areas that lend the city a place of pride. These need to be preserved and improved.
Physical Threshold and Potentials:
The advantages of geographical location coupled with the status of capital city and largest urban settlement has made it one of the fastest growing urban center in the State. However, the unique geographical personality of city has generated certain physical impediments in its growth and development. The physical disposition of Zabarwan mountains and Dal Lake in the east, Anchar Lake, Nambli Shalbug, Rakhi Gujar, Rakhi Rabitar, Palpora Boggy in North West, Rakhi Narkura, Mirgund Jil, Rakh Arar and Hakur Sar Wetlands in the west, marshy and low-lying flood prone areas in south and  saffron fields in south east have greatly shaped the physical sprawl of the city. In the east Zabbarwan  mountains have restricted the growth of the city only upto corporate limits. In the south-west and north-west except along the major transportation corridors, marshy and low-lying areas have also checked the city expansions to a great exent. Along Jammu - Srinagar Highway, Gulmarg, Chararisharief and Ganderbal roads availability of  buildable area and rapid mobility is acting as a major force of expansion and development of urban activities.
The rich variegated and chequered history of Srinagar has left many foot prints in the city, some of which are now proving great impediments in proper development and improvement of Srinagar so as to suit the present day needs and requirements. Besides, peculiar geophysical setting and geomorphic feature in and around the city have been generating impediments and influencing its growth and development.
 The physical factors detailed above and other factors that act as constraint for development of the city are as follows   :
(a) A sizeable portion of the city is flood prone and low-lying. These areas are not suited for city expansion and development. Some of the areas e.g Mahjoor Nagar, Soiteng etc. have experienced widespread residential expansion and face problem of frequent occurrence of floods, drainage, sewerage, poor road network and inadequate urban amenities.
(b) Inner city that has grown over the centuries in congested manner pose serious challenges. The whole inner city is almost built-up in extremely crowded pattern with narrow lanes and bye-lanes, poor drainage and inadequate amenities and facilities. In older areas dilapidation and poor maintenance have also added new dimensions in the city development.
(c) Disposition of graveyards and religious places along the major arteries pose serious constraints in harmonious development of the city.
(d) Ownership of land in Srinagar is predominantly in private hands. This is likely to generate tentacles in the implementation of development proposals. Therefore, local city authorities need to generate more finances and strictly enforce the development regulations.
(e) Lack of appropriate drainage and sewerage facilities in the City. At present about 55 per cent of the city’s population is deprived of such facilities. In the absence of these facilities most of the domestic wastes are directly draining into lakes, rivers, canals and other wet- lands. This has not only generated unhealthy living condition but also act as a deterrent in the development of the city.
            Past Planning Efforts:
The earliest settlement seems to have originated owing to strategic reasons and geo-physical factors including presence of water bodies, non-availability of land for development, poor connectivity and accessibility, which resulted into inorganic structure of old city with irregular road network and congested development. The new commercial core (CBD) Lal Chowk that is a fair example of civic design is a result of conscious planning during British regime which ruled Kashmir indirectly. During this regime Srinagar had a touch of conscious planning although in parts. Oberoi Palace, Shargari, Amar Singh College, S.P.College and other edifices nearby are the result of these efforts. But it seems that apart from these scat efforts, no comprehensive efforts for development or improvement of the city were made till the preparation of Master Plan in 1971.
The Master Plan 1971-91 was a well conceived plan with coherent policy directives and proposals, but the tardy implementation of the proposal contained in plan and lack of appropriate technical know-how with local urban development agencies in the city did not only defeat basic objectives of Master Plan but has also generated inhuman living conditions which are irreprehensible. Thus, the city has remained as sprawling improvisation of unplanned growth and development.
Over the last three decades Jammu and Kashmir State has recorded massive urbanisation. This stupendous growth in urban population resulted in substantial increase in terms of area expansion and population growth of major urban centres on the one hand and on the other most of the small and medium urban centres have either recorded sluggish growth or have shown signs of stagnation. This twin process has made urban growth very complex phenomenon and a challenging task for city planners to ensure a reasonable quality of life and environment to the inhabitants. In Kashmir and Jammu Divisions of the State, main determinants responsible for such a situation are growing drift of population from rural and small urban centres, unplanned and leaf-frogging accretion of main cities, lack of diffusion of benefits of development in the hinterland of main cities. Apart from this planning efforts which are mostly compartmentalised/fragmented and concentrated on economic aspects have also steered an unplanned settlement pattern and wide-spread disparities in degree of development of various urban settlement and their regions. The impact of such a process of urbanisation is directly manifested in the distorted settlement pattern, inequitable distribution of  population, imbalanced regional development, unidirectional migration pattern, unbalanced urban growth, lack of rural-urban continuum and excessive dependence of hinterland population for specialized services on main city.
The city of Srinagar has been known as “Venice of the East” and was eulogized as a charming and beautiful as garden cities with its beautiful gardens, lush green mountains, charming lakes, magnificient parks, rich cultural heritage, grandeur of salubrious climate and perennial rivers/canals. The ecology of the city that provides inspiration ought to have enhanced the prospects of achieving the kind of cities our age demands and yet ironically the city of Srinagar remained sprawling improvisation beset with the problems of inefficient landuses, water pollution, deforestation, central area congestion, slums and above all the ugliness. The situation has been further aggravated by un co-ordinated and cosmetic treatment in tackling ecological problems.
(i).Denudation of City Forests.-
The unprecedented growth recorded by Srinagar over the last four decades has not only mutilated the indecidious gold of Zabbarwan mountains voraciously but has also changed the ambience in the fragile ecosystem. This change due to deforestation and sprawl of urban growth is devouring the scenic beauty, fractionising the forests, resulting in excessive soil erosion in catchment area of Harwan and Teilbal Nallahs and siltation in Dal Lake, disturbing the wild solititude rarely present in the urban environment.
(ii). Eutrophication of Lakes and Wet Lands .-
The city which had balanced landuse consisting of forest, water bodies, wet lands, rich agricultural land, kerawas, mountains, hillocks and built-up area, used to attract a variety of birds in large number. Wet-lands used to provide an important function of regulation of water regimes especially during floods and habitats of characteristic plants and animal communities. Many wild life species also depend on these water bodies for their survival. These wet lands have been threatened either by explosive spread of obnoxious weed growth, increasing pollution load or due to indiscriminate discharge of domestic effluents and run-off from agricultural fields. Besides, this rapid urbanisation has also taken its toll in the form of accretion into these wet lands by way of filling and have given rise to virtual slums due to sub-standard living condition. Not only this, these areas get inundated by frequent floods causing damage to property and human life.
Dal Lake and Nagin Lake which has squeezed from around 36 sq.kms to around 12.5 sq.kms on account of sewage, drainage, garbage disposal, siltation due to soil erosion, agricultural run-off and deforestation of catchment area. The process of shrinkage has further accelerated by the growth of floating gardens and construction of houses in and around the lake. All this has increased the process of eutrophication of the lakes and has put the very existence of these water bodies and aquatic life in an obvious danger of extinction.
(iii) Derelict Land .-
In Srinagar City stone quarrying and earth excavation for brick kilns is carried out at a number of places. The stone quarrying carried out in Harwan, Panthachowk, Athwajan and Zewan areas are rendering the precious hill slopes non-usable besides leaving behind degraded land. The brick kiln areas which were initially concentrated in the south of the city in Lasjan and Sumberbug areas have left behind huge chunks of land as non-usable/derelict  land. This area is not fit for agriculture use because it remains water logged. The scattered abondoned brick kilns in the areas have further deteriorated/added to the problems of derliction of land. As a result of incessant floods, brick kilns have been mushrooming indiscriminately on the Karewas of south and south-east in Chadura and Badgam areas. If this activity is not regulated and controlled, it may have dangerous consequences on the ecology of the area.
(iv). Industrial Pollution.-
Though most of the industries located in a major industrial estates in Srinagar are non-polluting and eco-friendly but some of the industries e.g stone crushers which have come up in scattered manner in south and south-east have gradually declined the quality of environment. The undesirable environmental effects of these industries are noise, dust and dirt, vibration and aesthetic problems. The dust pollution due to these industries has generated a number of health disorders among the residents living in their vicinity. The stone crushers located in the vicinity of residential areas and along  National Highway need to be immediately relocated at some other appropriate places.
(v). Water Pollution.-
In the absence of appropriate drainage and sewerage disposal system, city’s effluents are directly or indirectly drained into various water bodies. The disposal of drainage and sewerage have assumed the challenging proportions due to rapid increase in population and coming up of unauthorised residential colonies in lowlying areas of Srinagar. It has declined the quality of water in these water bodies besides degrading environment and generating  a number of health disorders. The pollution of land due to drain of sullage into agricultural land has been found in Firdousabad and Mominabad areas along Bye-Pass road.

(vi) Air Pollution.- Though in Srinagar, air seems to be more or less fresh and free from pollution, however, there are some pockets where incidence of air pollution have stemmed on account of vehicular emission and dust pollution. As mentioned in foregoing discussions, areas located in the vicinity of stone crushers suffer from acute dust pollution. Also CBD where there is excessive pressure of vehicular traffic, acute problem of air pollution on account of emission of vehicles is assuming dangerous dimensions.


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