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Wooden architecture suits earthquake-prone Kashmir: Prof Talat



Wooden architecture suits Kashmir

KU’s UGC-HRDC organises special lecture for refresher course participants

BK News

Srinagar, Jan 9: Internationally-acclaimed earth scientist and Vice-Chancellor of University of Kashmir Prof Talat Ahmad on Saturday urged inhabitants and policy-planners of the Himalayan region, including Kashmir, to do away with constructing heavy concrete houses and buildings to minimise casualties during earthquakes.
Addressing as lead speaker a technical session of the ongoing two-week refresher course in science, organised by Kashmir University’s UGC-HRDC, Prof Talat said that wooden houses are best suited for a place like Kashmir since the Himalayan region falls in a high seismic zone IV and V.
He said houses and buildings in Japan, which experiences high magnitude earthquakes, are largely wooden which gives these structures flexibility to withstand ground-shaking which concrete buildings of heavy marbles and limestone cannot do.
“This is why Japan sees fewer casualties during earthquakes,” he said.
Prof Talat said people must learn the ways and techniques to survive properly and not disturb the ecosystem.
“That will be my message to the people,” he said.
He said that greenery and vegetation on mountains were crucial to prevent flooding.
“In Zabarwan and all mountains around Kashmir, if you have greenery, it’s going to reduce the soil erosion. When you have less vegetation, it’s going to just erode the mountains and everything eventually will go into the Dal Lake and other rivers. With the result, all these water bodies will become shallow and will be filled with sediments eroded from the mountains. And because of that even if there is normal rainfall, there will be a scare of flooding,” he said.
Prof Talat said Kashmir’s river system has narrowed because houses and structures have come up in flood plains and on the way of the rivers.
“When nature gets disturbed by this sort of encroachment, then events like flooding wash off everything. So when you are staying in the Himalayas, you have to be careful in constructing houses,” he said.
He said it is important for States and UTs along the Himalayan region to minimise the production of Carbon Dioxide and other gases which lead to rise in temperatures, melting of glaciers and an increase in ocean levels. “In that case, there could be flooding all the time,” he said.
“Whatever we do, we have to make sure there’s enough vegetation on land to pull Carbon Dioxide and release Oxygen. If we leave the Earth system alone, it is going to be fine. But with our own activities, we are disturbing the ecosystem and this disturbance needs to be plugged,” he said.
Prof Talat later took several questions from the participants.
Asked whether small quakes could avert big ones, he said: “There are gap areas where you have had no earthquakes for the last 500 years or so. But if there is a quake in such an area, that’s going to hit all. It is difficult to predict quakes, but we can hope that with these small quakes, there’s a possibility of big quakes not happening very soon.”
About predicting earthquakes with accuracy, he said: “There’s a lot of research going on about predicting earthquakes. There are quakes one can predict, like those connected with volcanoes. Researchers are able to predict the hot material (magma)which comes from deeper portions of the Earth and its movement which helps them to predict the resultant earthquakes.”
“But with the big systems, like the Himalayas, this is not the case. Though people are working on the prediction dimension, at present it is impossible to predict quakes given the science and technology that is available,” he said.
Earlier, Course Coordinator and Coordinator UGC-HRDC Dr Geer Mohammad Ishaq, in his welcome address, highlighted Prof Talat’s vast achievements and contributions in academic and research arenas.
He said the two-week refresher course has been going on uninterrupted despite the disruptions caused by the recent snowfall.
“14 lead lectures have been delivered so far, while 20 participants have made their presentation,” he said, thanking the Vice-Chancellor for delivering the special lecture.


Wood shortage, high prices due to Russia-Ukraine war affect timber business in Kashmir



Wood Shortage high prices

Malik Nisar

Srinagar: Every summer Altaf Ahmad 35, a small timber trader from north Kashmir Baramulla district used to be busy with his timber business, but this year instead of attending to customers at his unit, Altaf spends his day playing cricket in his village outskirts. The war in far-off lands has affected his business badly.

The prices of KD Wood mostly imported from Russia and Ukraine have soared many times, while the supply had dwindled.

“The Russia-Ukraine war has badly hit our timber business in Kashmir. This is the construction season here, we were expecting our business will double as there was lockdown from the past two seasons because of Covid19, but due to the war we are on the verge of complete breakdown this season too,” said Altaf Ahmad.

Altaf believes that their business is at a halt not only because of less supply of timber but also due to the less demand due to price rises as customers are reluctant to purchase at higher rates.

“There is the increase of 20% to 50% in the rates that has abruptly brought down the demand because customers are unable to purchase on such higher rates. We used to earn a good profit, but are presently on destruction mode where survival seems very much difficult,” said Altaf

Russia is one of the highest timber suppliers in the world and ranks as the seventh biggest exporter of forest products worldwide, which accounts for 22% of the global trade. And it clearly shows that the global market will continuously impact as long the Russia-Ukraine war continues. A country like China, which is in support of Russia in the conflict, has also been affected by limited trade sanctions as it depends on the import of timber, logs, and wood chips even for their domestic use.

Halted construction work

For Sajad, who was planning to complete the pending works of his newly built house and get married next year, the Russia- Ukraine conflict has brought a tsunami of hopelessness because the sudden surge in the timber rates has halted his plans of construction work and marriage back home, he feels it is unbearable to bear all the expenses in such a tough situation where other commodities all already in the surge.

Wood Shortage high prices

“The sudden increase in timber rates halted all my construction works because, I was expected to purchase timber say for example for Rs 1 lakh, now it will cost me Rs 1.5 lakhs an increase of fifty thousand. Now, I am too confused about whether to do it or not,” said Sajad Ahmad from the Bemina area of Srinagar.

 Showkat Ahmad another timber trader from North Kashmir says Ukraine timber was mostly used in Kashmir for the past couple of years as compared to Russian and German timber because Ukraine timber was available at cheaper rates. With a war going on in Ukraine the demand for German and Russia will arise, but it’s going very much costlier for customers.

“People prefer Ukraine timber because it’s easily affordable for them in contrast with German and Russian timber due to its low cost. The war in Ukraine has put everyone both (buyer and seller) in a catch22 situation because one doesn’t know what’s going to happen next,” says Showkat Ahmad who deals with the timber business for the past decade.

Business Kashmir visited various units in central and north Kashmir among them was Changa Timber Gallery, Sopore.

“I am into this business for the last one year but, I think this kind of situation will only benefit those dealers who have piles of stock available in the stores because they can increase rates on that stock which they have purchased at low rates earlier and a trader like me will go more into loss due to these unprecedented rates who’s new into this business and has very much less stock available at times,” says Aijaz Ahmad Changa, a 30-year-old BCom graduate.

Kashmiri Timber Traders mostly purchase timber from Gujarat and in Gujarat, they directly import the timber from Russia, Ukraine, and Germany. Business Kashmir contacted Singla Timbers Private Limited one of the oldest timber factories in Mithirhar, Gandhidham Gujarat who are in this business since 1946.

“The whole world is witnessing inflation it will remain for some time maybe for another year and there is also less supply of timber from the last few months because of that we are witnessing an increase in the rates of timber,” says Pulkit Singla director Singla Timbers.

“Kashmiri traders prefer Ukraine timber because of low price, but at the same time Ukraine timber also differs in quality in comparison to others.”

He says the lack of local wood production forces people to buy imported wood.

“India only imports 2% of the world produced timber. The local timber in India is not of that quality and one has gone through a long process before getting its access. The forests are like agricultural fields for countries like Russia and Ukraine, they cut the trees and do the plantation of it again and again but, in India, that thing is lacking. It’s also because of the weather,” he said.

Altaf and other timber traders in Kashmir are now waiting and praying for the end of the war in Ukraine so that their business will see that charm again.

“I only want the war in Ukraine to end, so that our miseries will also end,” concluded Altaf.

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How Kashmiri Architecture takes its influence from Ancient Rome



Roman influence on Kashmiri architecture

Insha S Qazi

Different traditions of art and history unfold when we talk about the architecture of Kashmir which is way more than houseboats, apple trees, Wazwaan and postcard-worthy sceneries. We often talk about its Islamic, Buddhist and Hindu cultural amalgamation in terms of architecture. This can be seen, for example, in the ubiquitous pagoda-style construction of mosques such as Khanqah-i-Maulla (Great Khanqah) or the mausoleum-shrine complex of Shaikh Hamza Makhdumi, who was a leading Suharwardi saint of Kashmir during the 16th century. It is considered a unique combination of vernacular design with Mughal elements but how often do we talk about how it’s been influenced by Ancient Rome.

Half-timbered houses, known as Dajji-Diwaree in Kashmir have a long history. Dajji-Diwaree was used as a construction technique by the ancient Romans in the 1st Century BC. Though, the design was cautioned against by Vitruvius who labelled it as a fire hazard. It involved mud, stones and bricks as filling in wooden braced structures. Considering the frequency with which earthquake would visit Kashmir this style suited best here.

You will come across these rectangular buildings, columns, preferable Doric or Ionic, made of stone or brick, sometimes covered with stone (marble), like many Roman buildings. Symmetry was a key feature of the Classical Style especially post-fall of Rome. The most authentic half-timbered buildings are not symmetrical.

Above and in the below picture from Aali Kdal, Srinagar, you will find  Roman Revival architecture such as spires, buttresses, pointed arch door surrounds and windows and decorative ironwork; medieval influences including, steeply pitched roofs.

  • Ornate gables with lots of wooden work.
  • Painted iron railings.
  • Plain or colourfully painted brick, woodwork motifs, whites and rich dark colours such as ruby red, forest green which heavily symbolises Victorian roman architecture.

The Roman arch solved an important problem by being able to support a large amount of weight. As a result, it enabled people to build larger and more varied buildings. The spread of the Roman arch and its cousins, the vault and dome, has had a lasting impact on architecture throughout the world.

Roman influence on Kashmiri architecture

You can’t look at one and know it’s built of wood. In keeping with the post-half-timbered buildings return to the classical style, your hidden wood-framed house may be surfaced with a return to ancient Greece and Rome, an exterior of stone or brick. So, to make it obvious, half-timbered buildings featured exposed wood on both the exterior and interior (fake or real wood ceiling beams in the interior rooms, and what is better seen in photos rather than trying to explain in words, but it’s important to note that the exposed interior wood in half-timbered buildings is both decorative and structural. The spaces between the exposed wood timbers is filled in with brick and then the brick is plastered over and painted, mostly in a whine, but in some regions, most notably Alsace in France, in glorious pastel colours.

Above window elevation, Faceted window frames project from the slatted timber and stained-glass facade of this apartment block in downtown.

As a whole, the European advent was marked by a relative insensitivity to native art traditions; former Indian patrons of art became less wealthy and influential, and Western art became more ubiquitous. The fusion of Indian traditions with European style at this time became evident in architectural styles; as with the Mughals, architecture under European colonial rule became an emblem of power designed to endorse the occupying power.

St Mary’s Church in Gulmarg is one of the rarest sights that you will ever come across over here. The St. Mary’s Church was built during British rule at the beginning of the 20th century, a visit to this church is sure to transport you years back in the time. This Roman Catholic Church is a beautiful example of Victorian architecture, located near the golf course on 3 sides whereas the rest is occupied by a mountain in Gulmarg. With grey stone walls and a green tiled roof with wooden trimmings, it seems more of a small-countryside chapel.


An educationist, Insha S Qazi runs a fashion & design school in Kashmir. She has a degree in civil engineering. 



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Real Estate

Construction material prices expected to fall significantly: LG Sinha



Construction material prices to fall

BK News

Srinagar, Jan 26: Asserting that the construction material prices in Jammu and Kashmir are expected to fall significantly in the coming days, Lt Governor Manoj Kumar Sinha Tuesday said the rates of building material had gone up due to complex auctioning process of mining blocks.

The Lt Governor was addressing the people of Jammu and Kashmir on the eve of 72nd Republic Day.

He said J&K Government has simplified the complex mining process as the e-auctioning of the mineral blocks is being done by the Geology and Mining Department in a transparent manner.

“Due to the complex auctioning process, the prices of construction material had gone up, which are expected to fall significantly in the coming days. The revenue of the Union Territory will increase, strengthening the economy,” he said.

Construction material prices in Jammu and Kashmir has witnessed the unprecedented rise, after the mineral blocks of the union territory were opened for e-auction and new environmental rules were applied for the extraction of all minor minerals, including sand and gravel from riverbeds.

Similarly, the prices of bricks too shot up after brickkilns faced labour shortage post-August 5, 2019, which continued during in COVID19 hit 2020.

To control the rising brick prices, the government later fixed the maximum price for the bricks to control the rates.


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