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Taking the sheen off

Dilapidated roads, open drains taking toll on people; Smart City!
12:00 AM May 13, 2024 IST | ARIF SHAFI WANI
taking the sheen off

It has been over a year of ordeal for people of Srinagar who are facing tough times due to dilapidated roads and slow pace of work. Most of the roads are either dug up or dilapidated— giving Srinagar, the summer capital, an ugly look!


Though the much hyped Smart City works are aimed to give makeover to historic Srinagar city, however, lack of proper execution has taken the sheen off the beautification project. When Maulana Azad Road, Polo View and Srinagar’s commercial hub Lal Chowk got a facelift on war-footing last year, people appreciated the change. These places were beautified in a record time in the run up to the G-20 summit.


Subsequently, the Smart City works gradually not only lost pace but line and length too! Vital roads in Srinagar were dug up simultaneously severely affecting traffic flow. The situation got so alarming in Downtown that a patient breathed his last as he was stuck in a traffic jam triggered by dug up roads and could not reach hospital on time. In many cases, fire tenders faced delays in reaching spots due to road blocks


At several places in Srinagar, footpaths have been extended. Even on narrow roads in Downtown, footpaths overwhelm roads. The roads have been choked and narrowed to such an extent that two vehicles in opposite directions pass with much difficulty.


In Srinagar, the areas where construction of footpaths have been completed, the space for pedestrians has been encroached upon by shopkeepers and vendors. This has defeated the purpose of footpaths which are primarily meant for pedestrians.


During traffic jams, bikers and scooterists drive on refurbished footpaths forcing pedestrians to walk on roads. There must be regulation to prevent movement of two wheelers on footpaths. Notwithstanding there has been an increase in accidents involving pedestrians from last year in Srinagar.


Vehicles have borne the brunt of dilapidated roads. The problem is compounded by lack of safety measures at road construction sites. Due to dilapidated roads, there have been many accidents on service roads of under-construction flyovers at Nowgam, Sanat Nagar and Bemina. Dust emanating from dumped construction material across Srinagar is polluting our eco-fragile environment.


Many ongoing road projects have turned into major traffic bottlenecks in the city. Even roads leading to various hospitals in Srinagar are dotted with potholes and uneven surface. Inordinate delays in completion of road projects are mainly due to lack of coordination between different departments.

Reconstruction of Dalgate bridge is a perfect example of ill-planning. The bridge was damaged by devastating floods in 2014. Subsequently an iron bridge was temporarily laid over the damaged bridge. Finally work on the bridge started last year and the project was scheduled to be completed by December this year. Due to inordinate delay in completion of the bridge, city centre areas are witnessing massive traffic jams. Now the deadline of the bridge has been extended to June this year!

Another example of ill-planning is Noor Bagh bridge. The bridge is important as it will help to check traffic congestion from north Kashmir to Srinagar. The construction of the bridge has been going on since 2011. The bridge was scheduled to be completed within four year, however over a decade has passed now.

Behind the glaze and hustle and bustle of Lal Chowk, dilapidated roads and uncovered manholes at Amira Kadal take the sheen off the historic place.  Another factor is lack of proper planning. Many features of Smart City works have been inspired from road and street concepts of various foreign countries. We forget that these foreign countries have state-of- the-art civic facilities.

Back home in Srinagar, even a spell of rainfall inundates roads within minutes due to a defunct drainage system! We have dewatering pumps across the city but many of these don’t operate during power cuts. As a result this causes back flow of rain water into lanes and premises.

Downtown has a network of drains but without any outlets. This leads to flood-like situations during rains. The problem turned severe after new drainage pipes were laid recently. All drains without proper outlets are a failure! This happens due to lack of proper planning. What is the logic behind digging up decades old footpaths which have stood the test of time and constructing new ones?

There has been inordinate delay in the functioning of the Intelligent Traffic Light System (ITLS) in Srinagar to address traffic jams. This results in massive traffic jams at vital intersections of the city. It is high time for the authorities to ensure repairs and macadamisation of roads in double shifts. There must be strict adherence to timelines. People of Srinagar have been suffering due to dilapidated roads.

People are awaiting when the Smart City Mission will transform Srinagar into an eco-friendly, resilient and socio-economically vibrant city! The sooner this happens, the better it will be for people.

We have to understand that Srinagar is not only a city but a repository of our rich history. There has to be a balance between tradition and modernity rather it must complement each other. Let authorities and people join hands to really make Srinagar a Smart City!

Author is Executive Editor, Greater Kashmir

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