SRINAGAR: The renovation of the historic zero bridge in summer capital Srinagar has failed to get complete despite passing of stipulated three years, officials blame “lack of funds” as the main reasons.
It was 24th June 2010, when the then R&B Minister G M Saroori said that historic Zero Bridge will be reconstructed to ease the traffic pressure in the civil line areas of the City and JKPCC has been asked to prepare Detailed Project Report early so that it is submitted to Centre under Central Road Fund (CRF) for approval. The Minister had assured to release Rs. 1 crore under projectization for the purpose and asked the agency to start groundwork of the project.
The dismantling work of this bridge was started on 4th April 2012 and the then District development commissioner Farooq Ahmad Shah had directed the project executing agency on 1st may 2013 to make the bridge motorable by November 2013.
There are seven historical bridges in Srinagar, each one of them having its own importance and history. These bridges connected various parts of the city with one other over the Jhelum River. These bridges remind us of the saga and the architecture of that time. All these bridges have been constructed after 14th century when Srinagar began to expand its territory. These bridges or “Kadals” as locally known are the life line of the city. Now these historical structures are being crumbled and few have been replaced by the new concrete bridges because of the increase in population and traffic in the city. These bridges are an epitome to ascetic art of Kashmir.
Zero Bridge is one of the oldest bridges in the Srinagar. This bridge was constructed by deaf contractor and hence was called “Zorr or Zar Kadal” (Zorr in Kashmiri means deaf). Later the name modified into Zero Bridge. It is the iconic bridge that was constructed by wooden planks in 1956 during Prime Ministership of Ghulam Muhammad Bakshki and thus is also regarded as the point of the local heritage.
But the other version states that when the ‘city of seven bridges’ got an eighth bridge, the name was suggested as ‘zero’ for the bridge that came before the Ist bridge -Amira Kadal. The original name for the bridge was suggested as Habba Khatoon Bridge. It is a documented history quoted by Pervez Dewan and Trilokinath Raina in their write ups.
The new bridge has to be nearly 8 feet in height. “As a child I would dream of constructing a house on that very bridge and I felt bad at the moment of its dismantling,” said Junaid Rather, a journalism student at CUK.
To make the new bridge resemble on design with old bridge, government had hired skilled labours from different districts of Kashmir including Islamabad and Baramulla and even trained them further. Even a film ‘Zero Bridge Film’ has been shot by a Kashmiri film maker Tariq Tapas.
Accusing the last year flood for destroying many parts of renovated bridge, Project Incharge Ishtiyaq Ahmad said, “Though the foundation part has been intact but due to gush of water sub structure was damaged nearly 25 per cent, super structure was damaged nearly 80 per cent and decking was completely collapsed.”
This new zero bridge is being built of Deodar wood that is hired by State Forest Corporation. The total amount of wood to be used in this would be nearly 2000 cubic feet. It would be a 9 span bridge.
“Only pedestrian movement was allowed on this historic bridge after its closure, as paramilitary bunkers were constructed on both sides of the bridge with the beginning of the separatist violence in Kashmir in the late 1980s,” said Suhaib Geelani, a local.
The bridge is close to the high security Church Lane area, which houses the private office of the chief minister, state guest houses where VVIP’s stay during their visits and the official residences of dozens of ministers, senior civil and police officers.
“We have completed nearly 70 per cent of the renovation but are stuck because of non-availability of funds from the government, once funds issued I guarantee it will not take more than 3 months,” said Ishtiyaq Ahmad, Project Incharge.