Srinagar: The traffic mess in the city has created innumerable problems for the general public. It is not just those who are caught in traffic, but those who live in residential colonies from where the traffic is diverted due to unending construction on the main roads, who are facing the hidden brunt.
While the traffic department is burdened with regulating the traffic of the main roads through narrow lanes and bylines, people have complained of getting stuck in the traffic for hours.
“Normally it used to take me 10-15 minutes of commutation to reach my home. Since the closing of the road, the cab I take has to take endless diversion though lanes, and it takes me more than an hour to reach the same place now,” says Haniya, who works in the city centre.
The traffic mess due to the closing of main roads from Rambagh to Jehangir Chowk is not only affecting the people driving vehicles, but pedestrians who have no access to footpaths in most places of the city, also find themselves stranded between vehicles.
Having nowhere to walk, the problems compound for the pedestrians when it rains, with speeding cars splashing muddy water.
Zainab, who has to walk though the traffic mess in Jehangir Chowk, and cross the road several times while the traffic is ‘coming from all sides’, says that it becomes very difficult for her to keep herself safe. “Is here is no one to manage this?” she asks.
Speaking to Free Press Kashmir, the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Traffic, Tahir Geelani says that one reason that the city centre is choked is due to the closing of the road from Jehangir Chowk to Naaz cinema.
“This is the main road through which approximately 20-25 thousand cars used to pass. The traffic is diverted towards Batamaloo, Abdullah Bridge and M.A Road,” Geelani says.
As per plan, the Rs 369 crore Jehangir Chowk-Rambagh Expressway Corridor (Flyover) Project financed by the Asian Development Bank, on which work began in 2013, would ‘considerably reduce the traffic congestion in Srinagar city centre and provide quick access to the Airport’.
The project was expected to be completed in September 2016.
The original deadline for the completion of the flyover was missed after floods in 2014 resulted in damage to the equipment and fleeing of workforce.
In 2016 when the region faced a mass public uprising, this deadline faced another roadblock, and delayed the work.
Since the construction started, traffic has been diverted though residential colonies, like Gogjibagh, Jawaharnagar and Rajbagh, causing inconvenience to the residents, as well as commuters.
“Due to heavy flow of traffic I usually get stuck in traffic with one passenger for a long time. The lanes are narrow and there is no other way out,” a local auto driver says.
Rafeeqa Bano, a resident of Jawaharnagar agrees.
She says that half of her time goes in cleaning her house because of the dust and pollution after her colony has ‘become a mini-highway’.
People with respiratory problems in the areas say that they have had to spend more on their medication.
While different departments involved in the infrastructure upgradation have been shifting blame, the traffic department has been struggling to micro manage the endless lanes and by-lanes which such huge volume of traffic.
“Residents have to bear this. If the diversion was not done, the construction of the flyover would have been hampered. People will have to face this inconvenience for the time being,” SSP Traffic, Geelani says.
The closure of the Jehangir chowk road has not only created traffic mess in the city but has affected businesses the area too. While footfall at malls and shopping complexes in the area has decreased, local vendors and shopkeepers are finding it hard to make sales and earn a living.
“We have lost around 60% of our business. We have no other means of income,” says Farooq who runs a small eatery.
Farooq says that the shop owners have requested the government to fasten the work so that their business does not remain affected for a longer time.
But as of now, the construction work seems never-ending, and the public is facing the brunt.