Govt caught napping on preparedness as diversion routes continue to be chocked, risk-prone
A main cause of traffic jams –furthering with each passing day in the City –is the allegedly unplanned work on the Jehangir Chowk-Ram Bagh(JCRB) flyover –a 36-month project started after three long years of delay.
Restricting traffic on the main artery –the JCRB route –that connects City center with south Srinagar, and south and central Kashmir, in the absence of proper alternative route plans, belies the tall claims of the government on preparedness for its “prestigious project”. Sources for three years, the administration did little or nothing to properly plan route diversions till the work was finally started.
Since earlier this year thousands of vehicles are forced to drive down congested diversions even as new restrictions are in the offing. This is affecting traffic regulation in the City centre from three sides: Jehangir Chowk, Batamaloo and the TRC -Abdullah Bridge junction. But the funny aspect first, read on:
The vehicles driving down from the City center to south are diverted via Jawahar Nagar bund-Ram Bagh route. Near the Jawahar Nagar bund crossing, is the Mehjoor Nagar bridge, which connects to the other side of the flood spill channel and areas like Padhshahi Bagh and Mehjoor Nagar. The bridge has been officially declared unsafe by the R&B department.
But as an alternative what the divisional administration is coming up with, is a makeshift low-lying bridge technically called Vented Causeway that will obviously get flooded with any rise in water levels meaning that risk-prone Mehjoor Nagar would be the only access during flood threats.
“This means during flood threats when the makeshift bridge will be submerged, commuters will have only one option which is unsafe Mehjoor Nagar bridge,” said an R&B official asking not to be identified.
The other side of the bund road towards Mehjoor Nagar is feared to be equally disastrous. On January 31, 2014 when the administration unveiled its traffic diversion plans, the then Regional Transport Officer(RTO) Muhammad Anees had minced no words to caution civil society and media that “some patches of the diversion route along bund were risk-prone.” This too was allegedly ignored.
The government had banked on Batamaloo route to be corridor for movement of vehicles towards south City, other districts and even the Srinagar International Airport. But this route is facing worst of the jams amid pavement vending, roadside repairs of vehicles at automobile workshops in the busy area and other congestion. The blind curves along the Mominabad road are again a problem.
Here the civil administration looks more responsible for the mess as the Srinagar Municipal Corporation and the Revenue officials have failed to remove the impediments, including some allegedly illegal transport agency hutments.
On the other hand traffic police continues to be staff-starved. As against requirement of 1000 odd cops, mere 250 of them on an average man City roads. Much against the need of 50 cops, the Batamaloo-Mominabad route is void of traffic police.
Jawahar Nagar route on the other hand, is equally congested where roadside parking of vehicles, display of goods by shopkeepers and pavement vending, as per locals, was never checked.
Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers Federation Media Head Farhan Kitab who lives on the route is one of the aggrieved complainants. “This flyover work seems to be half baked idea which lacks planning and has taken the residents of areas like Raj Bagh, Jawahar Nagar and Gogji Bagh for a ride,” he said adding that there was threat to life and property of people because of heavy vehicular rush through residential colony.
TRAFFIC POLICE SPEAKS
Senior Superintendent of Police Traffic Haseeb Ur Rehman said the “mega developments of public benefit come at a cost.” “For a convenient drive in future, people have to bear with such situations during project execution,” he said even as he appealed the commuters to co-operate with the administration. “Moreover we are trying our best to ensure smooth regulation of traffic,” he said.
In December 2009, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had announced that this expressway would be constructed at a cost of Rs 300 crores but within three years. In reality, the paperwork alone took more than three years and the work was started on September 28, 2013. The Economic Reconstruction Agency (ERA) is executing the Asian Development Bank funded project.
While Mehjoor Nagar bridge is already unsafe, adjacently, a makeshift low lying bridge has been constructed that won’t be of any help during the flood threats
The Bund towards Mehjoor Nagar side has already been declared unsafe by the RTO but the authorities continue to bank on it for traffic routing during the flyover construction
The Batamaloo-Mominabad route was slated to be decongested on priority as the main link to south City and the Srinagar International Airport but efforts proved cosmetic