Dr C M Seth
Central Government in the last few years have sanctioned several projects for Jammu which can take the development of Jammu to new heights. Some of these projects are setting up of Central University, IIT, Herbal Research Centre, skill development programmes and many small and big projects.
BJP-PDP Government in state has recently made welcome announcements about the future development of Jammu. These announcements augur well for the futuristic expansion of Jammu city and infrastructure development. These announcements will also help the crowded city to decongest. Deputy Chief Minister Dr. Nirmal Singh in the DDB meeting held on 30th September to review the development of Jammu and Samba districts made announcements to start four mega projects of River Tawi beautification, Rai Morh / Purmandal to Nagrota Ring Road, Vijaypur Bishnah to Damana Ring Road and New Airport (Second) at Samba.
Why these projects are futuristic for the development and prosperity of Jammu? Population of Jammu at present is estimated to more than twenty lakh and which will double in next twenty years. City requires more land for its expansion. More than nine to ten lakh people migrated to Jammu city during the militancy. These people mainly settled in the peri-urban and rural areas surrounding the Jammu city like Bhitindi, Roop Nagar, Janipur, Muthi, Ghou Manhansa, TalabTillo, Damana, Digiana, Airport road and many other colonies in an unorganized and unplanned manner. Road infrastructure, drinking water, waste management, electricity, health facilities, transport etc., were not matching with the fast urbanization of the city. During this phase of settlement vast irrigated agriculture lands were converted into housing colonies. Most of the areas where city is expanding at present are the most fertile basmati rice belt of the state. The projects which have been announced are going to address some of these issues of Jammu city. I will discuss the benefits of some of these new visionary projects.
Development and beautification of river Tawi has been a matter of political and administrative discourses for the last almost now twenty years. It is proposed to spend Rs. 1100 crore for its beautification and develop on the pattern of river Sabarmati in Gujarat. It is reported that officers of J&K Government have visited Gujarat to study the project and a committee of different Government departments under the Divisional Commissioner Jammu has been constituted to prepare a document for river Tawi. At this point I would recommend to State Government to send officers to study some of the main river taming, training, conservation and beautification projects in UK, USA, Germany, France, Italy and China before this team of JDA & other concerned departments actually sits for planning and drafting of the Tawi project report. Landscape of Jammu and river Tawi flowing through the verdant hills of Ramnagar Wildlife Sanctuary and Bahu Wildlife sanctuary is one of the best asset for the city. These two small hills with the backdrop of Trikuta hills provides one of the best scenic spots in the country. Water of the river should be utilized both for beautification, recreation and drinking purposes. Tawi is a perennial river, water of which can be harvested in small low height water catching dams as has been done by China in Shanghai and other major rivers which flow through the cities. We should have three such run of the river dams near first bridge, near Har ki pauri Hanuman Mandir and third near fourth bridge which is already coming up. These three water bodies will add to the beauty of the city and also provide sufficient drinking water to meet the requirement of population in the city on sustainable basis. These three water bodies in addition will also attract thousands of migratory birds in winter, a major attraction for tourists. Three mini lakes so created can also promote water sports. Right and left banks should be green belts with sufficient parks, Clubs, Conference Halls with auditorium, Sport clubs for Lawn Tennis, Table Tennis, Gymnasium, Yoga centre, swimming pools, Library and cultural centres. Olympic village/ HQs in Rome is on the right side of the river. Disposal of city sewerage has to be planned. No city waste water should exit into river from first bridge to fourth bridge to maintain the quality of water. There is no horse riding and shooting club in the city. These need to be located on one of the spaces along the river. Planners can think of more innovative ideas once they visit other countries. Once developed on most modern and innovative ideas river Tawi from first to fourth bridge can become one of the exclusive tourist attraction in the city. Ropeway which is already approved by the government will also add to the tourist attraction. River taming and training works should also include the portion of Nikki and Badi Tawi from fourth bridge to Makwal near LOC to save fertile lands of Phallai Mandal from river bank erosion and damage due to floods. This will also help in developing downstream notified wetlands of Makwal and Kukrian where thousands of migratory birds come every year in winter. Land around these wetlands is being encroached by the nomadic population and land mafia.
Eastern ring road (Eastern economic corridor) proposed from Rai Morh to Nagrota via Purmandal is a good idea but it should instead start from Vijaypur along river Devak and not from Rai Morh to connect Uttarbehni and Purmandal ancient temples and old heritage Forts of Dogra kings. This road will connect Vijaypur, Uttarbehni, Purmandal, Tute-Di-Khui, Bajalta and then to Nagrota. I have trekked in this valley several times. One of the most beautiful valley with thick forests and unlimited underground water reserves. From Purmandal to TutiKhui distance is about fifteen to twenty kms and total length from Vijaypur to Nagrota will be about fifty kms. This area has a potential to develop for next hundred years. All future urban settlements of Jammu city should come in this area, All new institutions can come in this area and other infrastructure can also be developed. Area once developed can help in reducing the pressure on fertile agriculture land. But there is a caveat for its development. Unplanned development should not be allowed and instead well planned Landscaping and Town planning should be developed before developers and land mafia enters in this beautiful valley. There should be a holistic development and landscape development plan from Purmandal to TutiDiKhui delineating sites for buildings, offices, institutions, trade centres, Malls, Clubs Recreation spots, Biodiversity conservation areas, road network. Waste management etc. All development should take place at the bottom of the valley and hill slopes may be kept protected without any construction. This road will reduce the distance to Katra for the Yatris who can also take the opportunity to visit Surinsar and Mansar lakes and add to their itinerary for additional tourist spots in Jammu.
Western ring road (Western economic corridor) proposed from Vijaypur to Damana via Bishnah/ Marallian is also a good proposal but this will eat away maximum irrigated Basmati growing areas. All areas from Damana to Miran Sahib and then from Murallian to Arnia, Bishnah and Vijaypur is under great pressure of urbanization. In the greater Jammu Development Plan these areas are being included but JDA and other agencies need to make a comprehensive overall development plan setting aside spaces for each utility as discussed above. In this area haphazard growth of construction is taking place. This road can also help in boosting the tourism from Jammu to Rajouri Poonch and Mughal road. This road can also help in promoting border tourism provided government also takes up the development of Gharana wetland, Suchetgad border post, Abdullian wetland, Kukriana wetland and Pargwal wetland. Along this route there are historical Temples, Ambaran Buddhist heritage site, Forts, Mogul Sarais, High altitude Pirpanchal Lakes, Budda Amarnath, Noori Chamb water fall, Nandishul waterfall and so many other places.
New additional Airport proposed for Samba is another visionary step by the present Government. This will improve the connectivity and help in speeding up the development of Samba, Kathua and Jammu districts. Being located in the centre tourist can select the routes of their choice to save time and to see places of tourism interest.
This time Jammu missed the opportunity of being included in the list of the smart cities but if these projects as proposed by the government come up in time then Jammu city will definitely get qualified for inclusion in the Smart city projects of India.
For overall and futuristic development of Jammu province I would like to propose few more projects which Government may like to take up. These projects are Nagrota to Reasi old pilgrim heritage road. Eco-Tourism destination projects in all the districts. Separate tourism development authorities for DuDu/ Basantgarh, Dachhan and Padder. Honble Chief Minister have already announced separate tourism development authority for Basholi and Bani areas. Revival of RanjitSagar/ Thein wetland project which was sanctioned by GOI about ten years back. Bamboo theme Park near Manwal or Basholi on the right bank of lake on the pattern of Bamboo theme parks in China, Malaysia and Indonesia under the Bamboo Mission of J&K state. AIIMS project need to be expedited.
All these projects will have a multiplier effect to boost the economy and GDP of the state. These projects will help in developing backward areas and generate lot of employment to rural youth. Present State Government with the support of Central Government and vision of Honble Chief Minister can speed up the growth and development of state. It is expected that State Government will also involve the participation of civil society and other experts in making J&K state as a model state.
(The Author is former Chairman State Pollution Control Board and an environment expert.
Dr C M Seth