INTERVIEW: ‘Srinagar Needs Holistic Urban Planning’

Potholed Road in Srinagar

TRAFFIC in Srinagar is reaching stupendous proportions, with non-controllable vehicular footfall from outside and peripheral areas aggravating the congestion scenario on the roads, reveals a research of Journal of Emerging Technologies and Innovative Research (JETIR).

Transport, as per the research, is expanding its hydra-headed tentacles prompting commoners and experts blame government for its inability to tackle the mess.

“The traffic volume in the city roads has doubled beyond its capacity,” the JETIR fact-finding says.

“The capacity of 1.3 kilometers road from Radio Station to Kohli Brothers at Regal Chowk is 1200 vehicles, however over 2421 vehicles pass on the road leading to traffic snarls.”

Similarly, the report notes, the capacity of 0.7 kilometer road from Batamaloo to Bemina crossing is 1200 vehicles—“however, over 3146 vehicles pass on the road leading to traffic snarls”.

In a recent interview with Kashmir Observer, SSP Traffic Srinagar, Muzaffar Ahmad Shah said the city’s traffic management is a coordinated effort involving among others the proactive role of Department of Roads and Buildings (R&B).

Apart from the traffic issue, the R&B is equally facing probing public queries regarding the potholed roads in Srinagar during summer.

In conversation with Kashmir Observer, Chief Engineer, R&B, Rafiq Ahmad Rafiq talks about the plight of roads and traffic in Kashmir capital.

 R&B Chief Engineer Rafiq A Rafiq. KO Photo by Auqib Javeed

Let’s begin with the obvious—why’s R&B yet to fix bad roads in Srinagar?

Well, not all roads are bad in city, but yes, some patches need to be fixed. Actually, surging oil prices delayed the development activity. We’ve been in the tendering process since March, but the contractors were not comfortable with the rates. So we revised the rates and the issue got resolved.

It’s for the first time in the history of Kashmir that the rates were revised within two years which would usually take a decade. So, with decks finally been cleared, we’ve tendered blacktopping in several city areas.

But Kashmir has limited time for macadamized roads. The work in most of the places hasn’t started yet. When’re you going to do it then? In winters?

As I said, we started the tendering process in the month of March but there were no bidders due to rate issues. With revised rates, the work has now started.

Let me assure you, road macadamisation has started in the summer season only in the last two years and we completed it on time.

So, how many kilometers will be blacktopped in Kashmir this year?

First of all, let me tell you that R&B isn’t the only department responsible for the road maintenance in Srinagar.

Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) is in-charge of 1394 kilometers out of total 1758 kilometer road stretch in Srinagar. They were supposed to go for macadamization in the city last year, but due to some issues, they couldn’t do it. Only 407-kilometer of road comes under R&B. And the rest including by-passes come under Beacon agency.

We usually macadamize 2000 kilometers every year, but this year, under various projects, we’re planning to macadamise over 1600 kilometers.

But people have this grievance that you don’t remove the crust of the road first before the macadamization making roads elevated. Why is it so?

Yes, I agree. But we’re still evolving and we don’t have such technologies where we can remove the crust on the spot and recycle it. But this technology will also be with us one day.

But the potholes in the city have been there since the last few years. The bad roads in Natipora, Shalteng, Bemina, Qamarwari and other areas lead to massive traffic jams.

There’s no dispute on that observation, but when we went for blacktopping in Natipora last year, the locals barred us from doing it. They wanted a concrete pavement road, which wasn’t possible for us. We cannot change a proposal in a very short period of time. So, the funds meant for that project lapsed.

And yes, regarding Shalteng stretch, you can ask Border Roads Organisation (BRO) — the designated agency for it.

So, how many grade-separators are being constructed in the city?

As of now, two grade separators are under construction on the Bemina highway. And the third one, at Sanat Nagar, is work in progress.

And what about Qamarwari chowk?

Well, once the Noorbagh bridge will be re-aligned, the Qamarwari chowk will be redesigned with wide and hassle-free road.

Also, the volume of vehicles has increased manifold in the last few decades but roads remain the same. Any plans to expand the roads in the city?

See, there has to be a balanced process. Transport system has to evolve. As long as you don’t have an efficient public transport system, you cannot keep pace with the number of vehicles. But yes, building roads at an already built-up place is not that easy, it comes with a huge cost.

Are you saying Srinagar lacks proper town planning?

Yes, there’s a need for holistic urban planning. Whatever has happened in the past, used to be theoretical in nature. Urban planning is a subject which deals with pockets. It takes pockets as surgical units.

Also, there’s no headway in the Boulevard 4-Lane Road Project even after 11 year. Why is it so?

Actually, the Lakes and Waterways Development Authority (LAWDA) is the main agency for the road. They had to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). Once they finalise it, they will do it.

  • Syed Burhan contributed for this interview

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Auqib Javeed

Auqib Javeed is special correspondent with Kashmir Observer and tweets @AuqibJaveed

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