When Development Usurps Lakes

Half of the water bodies in and around Srinagar have disappeared over the last century under the pressure of rapid and badly managed urbanisation. PHOTO:

Half of the water bodies in and around Srinagar have disappeared over the last century under the pressure of rapid and badly managed urbanisation. PHOTO: Kunzum

Urban India is witnessing a rapid growth with more than 300 million Indians already living in cities and towns. In the coming 20-25 years, another 300 million people will be added to the urban population. If not managed properly, Indian cities will turn into ecological disaster zones. In a hurry to expand, cities have already eaten into their local water bodies. Kashmir, the land of snow\clad mountains and unrivaled natural beauty, is feeling the heat already.

The beautiful Kashmir Valley has over a thousand small and large water bodies, which are the bedrock of both its ecology and its economy. Unfortunately over the last century, massive urbanisation around these water bodies has led to pollution, siltation due to deforestation and overexploitation of the many streams and lakes. Many have shrunk to a fraction of their original size while some have all but disappeared.

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Kaiser the Puppy and the Rising Middle Class in India

Three days ago, we pulled up in front of an art deco gate and half-abandoned mansion on the property of a soon-to-be new RAXA Collective resort. By ‘we’ I mean the design team comprising of an architecture student (me, Chi-Chi), a landscape architecture student (Rania), a hotelie-turned-interior architecture student (Jonathon), and an engineering student (Siobhan). We were told to get a feel of the property.

Trusty Guard at Marari Beach

We, the interns, walked around the property with Amie and the trusty guard. The bamboo stick to protect against rumored snakes on the beach.

We found: ‘objects’ (modest fishermen’s homes); an endless, unobstructed beach with marbled sand and black waves; and our new favorite hangout spot, a nearby internet café.

Exploring the ObjectsRania Inspects a Decorative Statement Wall

Guard and us exploring the roofline

Exploring the roofline of an abandoned wealthy fisherman’s house with the guard.

Kaiser found: two Indian security guards; their next-door-neighbor friend; our cook Manu; and us.

Kaiser is a tiny mixed puppy who arrived on site only an hour before we did. As a dog-lover and all-around “everything happens for a reason” believer, I KNEW KAISER WAS A SIGN. A sign for what, I don’t really know, but he was a very cute and very small sign, so I immediately focused all my down-time obsessing and fussing over Kaiser.

Kaiser the Puppy

This is Kaiser.

I think Kaiser gave me more insight to Indian attitudes. It’s very difficult to converse with someone about abstract ideas without a common language, but if you throw a dog in the mix, it becomes a lot easier.

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