Srinagar: A 31-year-old architect from Kashmir, Syed Suhaib Naqashbandi with his remarkable solutions around the water management of Srinagar city has won him the 2020 Global Urban Thesis Award by Netherlands based DAIDA foundation.
The award aims to acknowledge and support masters graduates who, through their work, help improve the urban infrastructure and living conditions for vulnerable groups in the rapidly growing cities of developing economies.
Syed Suhaib Naqshbandi is among the four who have been awarded for their research around the year’s theme of water and development.
Hailing from the Lal Bazar locality of old city, the young architect based his research work on reviving the traditional water linkage system of Khuls across Srinagar at Jamia Millia Islamia University, Delhi.
“If we look at the documented history of Kashmir, our region has had a history of floods which dates back to times of both Hindu and Muslim rule. However, the valley was a prosperous settlement and came out of those massive deluges easily. Why? Because the indigenous water systems (Khuls) prevented us from the flood damage,” Suhaib told Free Press Kashmir.
He said the rulers of the past knew the significance of these water systems (Khuls) and created them in various parts of the valley.
“Take for instance, how Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin, popularly called Budshah made Nalemaar khul in Srinagar, Martand Khul in Anantnag, and Zangeer Khul in Baramulla. In contemporary times, however, we don’t find meaning in these water bodies. Nalemar Khul was filled long back in 1975 for the construction of an arterial road. It led to serious social, cultural and ecological destruction,” he said.
Suhaib pointed out how the deluge of 2014 could have been averted if the successive regimes had preserved its indigenous water system.
“Since 2014, the valley has witnessed many engineering solutions and yet they have fallen flat. This is where the role of traditional water linkage systems come into play, which I have emphasized in my thesis,” he said.
His research has also stressed how the attitude of people towards water bodies needs to be changed in the valley in order to preserve them.
“I have devised some strategies to improve the human-water relationship. In other parts of the world, they follow water sensitive urban design. It means whenever an urban design takes place, water is taken as a centric theme. In Kashmir, we do the opposite, even though it is a water centric settlement. Therefore, the importance of the water system needs to be realized by the people by shifting their attitudes towards it,” he said.
Suhaib credits his guide, Dr Inthekhab Alam and seniors from Kashmir in the Urban Regeneration Department at Jamia Millia Islamia for contributing to his achievement.