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Lucknow: Still a STUNNER?

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By Akash Shukla

From Kakori Kebabs to Lakhnavi Nawabs and from Martin ki Laat to Nakkhas ki Haat, Lucknow still revels in the pink of cultural health. Mystique and mysticism have always been the two crucial epicentres of Awadhi cultural heritage. Does Khazaney Vali Maszid hold wealth in its deepest dungeons or is it barely a far-flung farce?

55039856.BegamHazratMahalParkWeFrom the controversy surrounding Begum Hazrat Mahal’s sexual orientation to the unfathomable Rumi’s Sufi inclinations, Oudh has loads to celebrate and even more to dig and dive into.

While the old city continues to smear its lips in Kashmiri Chai, the former’s new counterpart in trans-Gomti area has made way for tipplers of different sort. Restropubs have mushroomed and hookahs in its exotic avatars have forayed into the lounge.

 

The gurgling smoke rings speak of a more urbane life that was little known before. Welcome to Neo Lucknow. This new town knows no Nawabi Tehzeeb and it talks pretty ajeeb. This is how Lucknowites from old city rhymingly dismiss the settlers of Gomti Nagar, Indira Nagar and Aliganj.

The state capital is nonpareil when it tries to strike a balance between culture and modernity; welcome to Lucknow’s diversity! Jostling with secular ideas and religious fanaticism, the city not only bears witness to Matam in DSC01773K100

Moharram but also scowls scoffs and jeers at radical Slut Walk and unprecedented Gay Pride Parade.

The city’s yearly fun and frolic over an array of festivals spread across religions is exemplary of unity in diversity.So is this how we sum up the Shaan-e-Awadh?

Perhaps not! Barring unity in diversity, this city is also teetering on the brink of inequality in equality. With high on culture and low on tolerance, the city is unabatedly galloping from shine to shame. So when did angry motorists of Lucknow moved from Pehle Aap Pehle Aap to Pehle Mai Pehle Mai?

From peaceable multitude to raging mob, the culture of Lucknow has turned over a new leaf. While Idris ki Biryani and Karim ki Nahri continue to rule the tastebuds of all and sundry, the emergence of model shops has sloshed the otherwise potential achievers, the youths, into a darkness that has no light at the end of the tunnel.

No matter how confusing this cultural amalgam may appear, the brush strokes that paint this picture still hold gilded tips. The city still forgives more than it punishes. Though the urbane youth of Lucknow has moved out of mosques and mausoleums yet they continue to hail with titles like Aap for strangers.

This uniqueness is undying as it is fed by the elixir of Hindi and Urdu alike. The maxim ‘hand is quicker than the eye’ cuts a sorry face as the Lakhnawi zabaan continues to nip the urban rudeness in the bud.

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With Rapid Urbanization, Lucknow Loses 46 Percent of its Water Bodies

According to a survey conducted by the Lucknow Municipal Corporation, there were a total of 964 ponds in the city in 1952. The number declined to 494 in 2006

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lucknow skyline, water bodies
File:Anandi Water Park located by the Sharda Canal on eastern outskirts of Lucknow. Wikimedia Commons

With rapid urbanization changing the skyline of Lucknow, the state capital has also lost 46 per cent of its water bodies. Most of them are also polluted with waste and sewage.

The state government and the Supreme Court have made various interventions to stop instances of land-grabbing and construction over water bodies but the situation remains beyond control.

Officials are unwilling to speak on the issue since encroachment, invariably, has the backing of political leaders. The District Magistrate also did not respond to calls. According to a survey conducted by the Lucknow Municipal Corporation, there were a total of 964 ponds in the city in 1952.

The number declined to 494 in 2006. Land records of the municipal corporation state the city has 964 tanks and ponds, a majority of which are now unidentifiable due to reclamation.

lucknow skyline
File: Lucknow Skyline From Gomti Nagar. Wikimedia Commons

In the Sarojini Nagar area, where 14 water bodies have been encroached upon, Samajwadi Party leader Sharda Pratap Shukla is said to be a “big fish”. Some of his illegally- constructed buildings were demolished but reappeared months later.

“Each time we try to demolish the encroachments, we face tremendous political pressure and the matter is laid to rest,” said an official of the Lucknow Development Authority (LDA) who did not wish to be identified.

In 2006, the Supreme Court had said that the protection of natural lakes and ponds honours the most basic fundamental right – the right to life – which is guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution. But Lucknow’s official records reveal a grim picture.

Ponds and pools, which act as a sponge and thermo-regulators, help in the accumulation of rainwater and enhance the groundwater level in the area. But water bodies in Lucknow’s core urban area have become largely extinct. This has made it vulnerable to severe flooding in the future. The state capital has already reported four major flood events in the past decade.

The situation of the Gomti River is at its worst today. The Gomti is a groundwater-fed river and is replenished by its various tributaries. According to the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board (UPPCB), the flow of the Gomti has reduced by 35 to 40 per cent over the years. At some points, one can easily cross the river on foot since the water is only waist deep.

lucknow, water bodies
Experts say that the situation is getting worse by the day with about 300 water bodies around Lucknow currently undergoing plotting for construction. Wikimedia Commons

The river is at its filthiest along the 13-km stretch in Lucknow and has been declared as the most polluted river stretch in the country by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). Increased biotic pressure, reduced ecological flow, deterioration of major tributaries, siltation and encroachment of the river’s catchment area has left the river dry and filled with sewage and sludge.

Ashok Shankaram, an environment activist from the city, filed a petition against the encroachment of 37 water bodies in the Allahabad High Court in 2014 and the court sought answers from the LDA and the municipal corporation, but received only an elementary reply.

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The reply, given in 2015, did not contain any information about concrete steps taken against land-grabbing. Another PIL in this regard was filed in the high court last week. Experts say that the situation is getting worse by the day with about 300 water bodies around Lucknow currently undergoing plotting for construction.

Sources say that Uttar Pradesh has lost more than one lakh water bodies (tanks, ponds, lakes and wells) to the hands of illegal encroachment. The Yogi Adityanath government has not gone beyond providing lip service to the issue and no specific action has been taken to save water bodies from the clutches of land- grabbers. (IANS)