The largest city and summer capital of the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir, Srinagar bagged the 10th place in the fourth list of the 30 cities to be developed under the government's Smart Cities mission. Under the mission, the city will receive a Rs 5 billion grant from the Centre and Rs 5 billion from the Jammu & Kashmir Government - the total project cost of the smart city proposal is around Rs 38 billion. Now, Srinagar is all set to revamp itself. Farooq Ahmed Lone, CEO, Srinagar Smart City (SSCL), elaborates upon the city's plans in an exclusive conversation with the CW team.
As CEO of Srinagar Smart City, what does your scope of work involve?
I have been in the service of Jammu & Kashmir since 2009. Earlier, I have served as the Deputy Commissioner of Srinagar. Currently, I have been deputed as CEO, Economic Reconstruction Agency, Jammu & Kashmir.
Tell us about your contribution to the city's urban planning and existing development.
For the urban planning and development of the city, we have identified various areas that need to be developed. Also, we have focussed on road construction and improving the drainage system, and plan to take steps to avoid water-logging during the rainy season. We are working on the drainage problem; during the 2014 floods, we had faced a lot of drainage and water-logging issues. Several projects have been undertaken under the AMRUT and smart city missions.
Are there any opportunities for contractor, developers, engineers, architects, etc, in Srinagar?
The roads in Srinagar face the problem of daily traffic.
Vehicles face a daunting task during peak hours and many road-widening plans have been instituted to smoothen traffic.
We have conducted road-widening on the road from Anantnag. Similarly, work on connecting the new National Highway has been initiated. We are working on having a Ring Road around Srinagar to address the problem of traffic. Housing is another area that we are looking to improve. Even today, we have about four families living in a single house. Sufficient space and housing for all is another area where projects will come up. We are looking for new areas to establish housing colonies. Road-widening and land acquisition are an issue in downtown Srinagar as we need to rehabilitate many families. Circular roads is another concept that we are working on. With road-widening and housing-related projects coming up, I see a great scope for players in the construction industry and real estate.
Tell us about the recent smart city-related developments.
Under the Smart City programme, the main focus in area-based development (ADB) is to improve the city's downtown area. There are a large number of heritage structures such as temples, shrines and other areas that have tremendous tourist potential. That has been our focus. Traditionally, the city of Srinagar had water transport and we are looking at reviving this. To this end, there are around 45 ghats along Jhelum River that we plan to develop. There will also be beautification of the Jhelum waterfront, under which, the river and the surrounding areas will be beautified. All the urban development will be carried out in this direction. The protection and conservation of monuments in the city is another project that will be undertaken under the Smart City mission. Conservation of these monuments is important to boost tourism in the city.
How do you plan to focus on Srinagar as a smart city? What is the amount budgeted for this?
We are planning underground cabling in heritage areas and work is going on to lay new pathways. Similarly, we are working on
laying cycle tracks and green spaces, develop new streets, and bring in an intelligent traffic light system and new facilities.
We will lay stress on disaster management, e-governance, sewage and sanitation, heritage and tourism, upgrading historic markets, hospitality and commercial development and a lot more.
We are currently in the process of hiring a consultancy firm as per the guidelines of the smart city links; this will be done shortly. We will receive a Rs 5 billion grant from the Centre and Rs 5 billion from the Jammu and Kashmir Government. However, the total project cost of the smart city proposal is around Rs 38 billion.
How do you plan to improve infrastructure for tourists visiting Srinagar?
Srinagar, like any other city, is safe and there is no major threat to tourists. We are more concerned about solving the city's water supply and sanitation problems.
We have done some drainage works in the Rawalpora area of the city and are planning more drainage works. A new pipeline has been worked out to improve water supply. Further, a new flyover to improve connectivity has been built from Jehangir Fort to Rambaug; one phase of this has been completed.
What can one expect from Srinagar in 2018?
We have great hopes for 2018. Most projects are expected to be completed by March 2021 and we are speeding ahead to execute them. There will be many new doors opened in infrastructure development in the coming months. In short, 2018 is our year.
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