Men might be at work, but given how the lofty corridor has been missing deadlines since 2013 has already created a mess in Srinagar. As the fully functional flyover remains elusive, Free Press Kashmir, tries to map its instant impact on the heritage city.
Back in 2013, when Srinagarites heard about the Rs 369 Crore Flyover, it sounded surreal and impossible to execute. An animated video showing what the flyover would look like was shared and viewed by the locals merely as an artwork of an animation artist. However, when the authorities including Jammu and Kashmir Reconstruction Agency (JKERA) hit the ground, the bubble burst.
Since then, the Jehangir Chowk-Rambagh Expressway corridor (Flyover) has created more trouble to the residents than ease. It was supposed to “considerably reduce the traffic congestion in Srinagar city centre and provide quick access to the Airport”. However, the unfinished construction for the last 5 years is the biggest hurdle on the vital roads of the city. The authorities say finishing the work by the month of May is their priority. But the dilly-dallying has already created a lot of mess in the city.
The move was initially opposed by the owners of shops, godowns, offices, land and other structures, for it would have meant a loss to their business.
According to the resettlement plan of JKERA, the census had revealed that out of 250 households (HH), 75.60 per cent would lose shops (only), 8.80 per cent would lose both shops and godowns, 6 per cent would lose godowns (only), 1.20 per cent would lose office space, 6.80 per cent HHs would only be affected by virtue of impact on portions of their land, and 1.60 per cent were the households running businesses considered squatters. 135 individuals and 10 HHs were to experience impacts on their source of income.
ERA had planned to construct prefabricated structures (temporary shops) for the shopkeepers whose shops were gutted. The project was financed by Asian Development Bank and the agency kept missing its deadlines, the first one among them being September 2016.
The delay has increased troubles for locals who are facing the direct impact of the construction. Also, the flyover has created heavy traffic mess in the city besides a diversion for ‘smooth’ workflow.
“The dust makes us sick,” says Mushtaq Ahmad, who lives near the flyover. “Had it been a matter of even three years, we would have tolerated. We do not oppose the developmental moves. But, they are delaying it unnecessarily. Okay, we had floods in 2014 and uprising in 2016. What about the rest of the time?”
“It takes us hours to reach a spot where we can be in 10 minutes,” says another local. “This is too much now. I don’t know if they will ever complete it. It has created so much mess in the city.”
Accepting the delay, the Chief Executive Officer, JKERA Dr Raghav Langar told Free Press Kashmir that ERA has taken note of the delay caused by the 2014 floods and 2016 uprising.
“The specific timelines have been set for the contractors which they have missed many a times,” Langar said. “We have imposed very strict penalties on them. The new mutually agreed upon timelines are March for structural work and May for the topping. We keep on flagging the issues from time to time.”
By May, he said, the flyover will be open for traffic. “As of now, the structural part is being completed. However, due to weather conditions (from January to April), we won’t be able to go for the blacktopping/ surface work. It is not allowed as per Roads and Buildings’ norms and is also not technically possible.”
But with no customers around, the shopkeepers from Jehangir Chowk to Iqbal Park area say they watch the labourers all day long and see them working on a sloth’s pace and often fixing faulty machinery.
Whether the machines are faulty or not, the mess created by the incomplete concrete monster is serious and calls for immediate action when new office entrants are promising to make Srinagar a smart city.
Mohammad Mehroz contributed to this story.
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