8 years on, Jhelum beautification project lingers

Mir Farhat

Banks of river Jhelum where beautification project has been completed.

SRINAGAR,  July 13: For past eight years, Government has failed to complete the beautification project of river Jhelum embankments in Srinagar city that was to be completed in 2008 and so far even half of the work has not been executed.
The embankment stretch from Sonawar Ghat to Chattabal Weir of the river that snakes through the Srinagar city was to be completed in 3 years, but the authorities have failed to complete the project.
Irrigation and Flood Control (IFC) Department officials claimed that in phase first of the project, they have completed at least 90 per cent of the work so far. “The beautification of the embankment stretch from Sonawar Ghat to Dubji Ghat at Gowkadal has been completed in phase-I of the project. Its total expenditure amounted to Rs 12.5 crore,” said Mir Javed Jaffer, Chief Engineer IFC Department.
The project was started in August 2005 by then Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed to beautify the riverbank at a total cost of Rs 25.55 crore.
“The complete beautification of the riverbank will take more time as there is no money allotted yet for the project. We have not stopped work on the project despite deficiency of funds. The proposal for the second phase of the beautification from Dubji Ghat to Chattabal Weir which has a length of 4.5 km has been submitted to the Government. The completion of the work depends upon the release of funds by the Government,” Jaffer said.
The Chief Engineer said that the parts developed so far have been fenced, creeping grass has been planted and lighting has been installed to make the bank glow during the evening hours.
People, especially Srinagarites, ridiculed the slow pace of the work on the river banks. “The then Government had made much clamour to revive the banks in three years, but eight years have passed since and it doesn’t seem to be finished in next ten years. The Government is in no mood to speed up the work and get rid of the shabby looks of the banks across the river,” said Rouf Ahmad Dar, a city resident.
When the project was launched, the then Government had claimed that it would engage a world reputed consultancy to restore the pristine glory of the riverbanks running through the State with focus on fortifying its embankments. But the IFC chief engineer said no such outside consultancy is doing the work on the riverbanks. “The work was executed by our department only, we will complete it,” he said.
The IFC chief said the process of work has been slow because of “hindrances” to remove encroachments and rehabilitate the bank dwellers. “The removal of encroachments and rehabilitation of bank dwellers had put up major hindrances to take finish the work within stipulated time,” he said.