Towards late 60’s the state engineers were asked to study problems of Nallah Mar and explore the possibility of reviving the Nallah Mar to its erstwhile grandeur. A lot of discussions and deliberations took place amongst the engineering community here. Technical advice and guidance was also sought from national level experts.
The conceptualization and finalization of the project was completed over a long period of several years after duly considering the pathetic condition of Nallah Mar and the various possible but practically executable and implementable solutions. It was very evident towards the conclusion of these deliberations that restoring the Mar to the original form was not a viable option.
The proposed solutions certainly were not ‘quick fix’ type solutions, as is being made out to be, but were arrived at after carefully studying the various issues plaguing the Mar. Deliberations led to narrowing down to the following two possible solutions:
i) Conversion of Nallah Mar into storm water drain by large scale pumping at its off-take (from Brari Numbal lagoon).
ii) Filling up of the Nallah to convert it into an avenue with sewer underneath.
It is said that to test the first solution heavy duty pump were installed somewhere near Gadiyar to pump water from the Jhelum into the Mar but this experiment was not successful, possibly because of the extent of sludge in the canal and the idea was abandoned.
In any case, the other drawback of the first solution was its huge annual running & maintenance costs. Both these things worked decisively against adopting the first solution.
Eventually, all the stakeholders seem to have been onboard and fully supportive of the second solution i.e. laying a sewer in the Mar and filling it up and constructing a road on top of it.
This solution was eventually finalised and approved for execution. It needs to be mentioned here that the only dissenting professional opinion was that of Er V D Zadoo who had opposed the filling of the Nallah Mar. He had forewarned that it would be disastrous to fill the Mar.
At this stage, the engineers, with a view of the future, enlarged the scope of the project.
Rather than restricting the project scope to laying of the sewer and drains and constructing a road on top of the sewer, they proposed a holistic re-development plan for the entire area.
This integrated redevelopment plan was aimed at reviving the economic activity in the Shehr-Khas
Accordingly, project envisaged constructing shops, flats for housing and various public purpose buildings like post & telegraph office, police station, schools, health centres.
Petrol pump, cinema halls and parking areas were also planned in the development plan. This vastly enlarged the footprint of the development on ground, required a corridor of 120 feet as against 35 to 40 feet width of the Mar.
An Integrated Redevelopment Plan
The ‘Technical Report on Development of Nallah Mar Area’ was prepared by the Irrigation & Flood Control Department, Kashmir and the inaugural ceremony of the Project was held in Jun 1971.
The Project, described as a step to elevate the standards of public health and hygiene, was envisaged to be completed in four years. Subsequently, the Project was handed over to Srinagar Development Authority for execution.
With this background let us now look in detail at each of the various aspects of the Project the execution of which began by 1974.
When one talks of the Nallah Mar Project, or Mar Plan as it is locally called, we generally tend to think of only filling up of the Nallah Mar and construction of a road on top of it.
But as briefly mentioned above, the project, as originally approved, was much more than just filling of theMar and constructing a road on top of the filling. It was actually a major urban development intervention and was accordingly called ‘The Development of Nallah Mar Area’.
Filling up the old defunct Mar was one of the several components of the Project. The main key components of the Project are listed below:
i. 4 km long large trunk sewer line (precast cement concrete pipes from Andh Masjid to Guzerbal) including branch sewers in streets and roads.
ii. Filling of Nallah Mar using earth from Flood Spill Channel with formation depth from 5ft to 15 ft.
iii. Construction of 3.75 KM road with width of 64 ft comprising of dual carriageway 22ft, central strip 4 ft sidewalks of 8 ft on either side.
iv. Construction of storm water drains with manholes on either side.
v. 983 three storeyed shop cum flats (single, two and three room) blocks catering to EWS, LIG and MIG housing.
vi. 1335 shops, some facing the proposed Mar road and rest facing the rear side.
vii. Two super bazaars in vicinity of above shops.
viii. Two cinema halls, two petrol pumps, parking areas, post & telegraph office, police station, community buildings and facilities like schools, health centres, eighty shops and fifty shops cum flats for which plots of land had been identified.
ix. 390 houses and 560 kanals of prime real estate was to be acquired involving a total of 650 families.
x. Acquisition of 56 ft wide additional strip for shops and residential flats.
Clearly, it can be seen from the above that it was a reasonably well thought urban infrastructure re-development project comprising of various components and filling the Mar, with a sewer under neath, was one of the key components of the Project.
Interestingly, for funding of these urban infrastructure works, other than sewers etc, HUDCO had been roped in who had extended first tranche of Rs 60 lakhs at the start of the Project. A detailed study of financing of the Project had been done and it had been found to be a commercially viable project and a onetime premium as well as an annual rent had been calculated for all the flats, shops and super bazaars, except for plots of land, which were intended to be auctioned off.
It had been envisaged that the implementation of the redevelopment plan would revive and enhance the economic activity in the area and thus provide business and employment opportunities to the population living in the area.
To be continued…
The piece was first published on Greater Kashmir.
Iftikhar Drabu is a published author, a Civil Engineer by qualification, and a student of history.
Views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position and policy of Free Press Kashmir. Feedback and counter-views are welcome at [email protected].