Organized mess

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As everyone wants a private vehicle, authorities struggle to find road space and parking lots to smoothen their flow. Majid Maqbool reports.  
Continuing increase in the number of vehicles, lack of proper road infrastructure, bad roads, insufficient parking lots, unregistered vehicles and violation of traffic rules is taking a toll on the traffic management in the Srinagar. And the inevitable result is traffic congestion.
Lacs of vehicles ply on various city roads every day, many of them pouring in from other districts. Out of these, 90 percent are private vehicles. Over the last five years, 2,50,000 vehicles have been added to Kashmir’s vehicle population. This is despite minimal addition to the length of roads in Kashmir. The road density as well as surface topped road density in Jammu and Kashmir is the lowest in India.
In 2007 alone, the Regional Transport Office registered 33,000 new vehicles. Almost equal number of vehicles was registered in 2008.
“Add to it the number of registered vehicles that are brought from Jammu, Delhi and other states,” says Senior Superintendent of Police (Traffic) Kifayat Hyder. “Then there are unregistered vehicles in thousands and those vehicles that are old and used for ferrying secretariat employees after darbar move when they return to the city in March,” he says. “It takes the figure to 50,000 new vehicles each year. If the same rate continues, in the next 15 years we might have 2,50,000 vehicles on the city roads that were laid decades back,” he adds.
As per standard traffic norms, 20 percent of the land in every town should be kept for traffic purposes but in Srinagar only three percent is available for traffic purposes.  
Officials in J&K’s Roads and Buildings department which is responsible for construction and maintenance of roads say all city roads are long overdue for renewal.
“But successive governments have shown no urgency towards the road widening in the city,” said a senior R&B official.
Funds strangulation, officials say, prevents the department from maintaining roads well. “We are only provided eight per cent of the funds required for road maintenance. So we only carry out patch work on the roads wherever it is necessary,” the official said, adding  the government needs to consider one time road widening plan for the city, if the traffic mess is to be dealt with effectively.
To ease out the traffic rush, state government in 1970 started a circular road project in Srinagar. Three decades later, the project is still a distant dream. Only few kilometers of the proposed six lane road have been constructed so far.
Widening of the much congested old city roads is part of the circular road project. Though the Roads and Buildings department in March this year started acquisition of land at Nowhatta in old city, the projects undertaken elsewhere in other parts of old city are yet to be completed.
“We have started road widening work from civil lines to M A road. Work is in progress on two additional lanes from Dal gate to Batamallo, which will be completed by the end of this year,” said Muhammad Shafi Mir, Chief Engineer R&B.
“Houses that have encroached on the Dargah Hazratbal road are being dismantled. We have also acquired land in Karan Nagar for road widening purpose that will ease traffic congestion,” Mir said.
The route plan for the public transport in the city also dates back to 1996, formulated by the then Road Transport Authorities. A meeting to formulate the route plan again has to be convened after every 10 years. But no such meeting has taken place since 1996. Scheduled to be held in March this year, the meeting was postponed and new date is yet to be finalized.
Experts believe that arrival of Nano car on the city roads will increase traffic accidents as city roads are not feasible for the new car because of lesser gap between front and rear wheels it in.
“Technically, Nano is not a sound vehicle for the roads of Kashmir. On MA road if you drive it at 40kms, it is bound to turtle,” says SSP Hyder.
Another major cause of traffic mess are the TATA’s 407 passenger vehicles that are not allowed to ply anywhere in India, except Jammu and Kashmir.
“It is an accident prone vehicle and majority of accidents in the city involve these vehicles,” says SSP Haider.
Experts say that the pedestrian walk, as per rules, should be eight inches higher than the road. And if its height is one inch more, three meter of road adjacent to pedestrian walk becomes unmotorable.
“On residency road, the height is 10 inches higher than normal, which makes 30 meters road area unmotorable,” says SSP Haider.
He says that all the departments concerned with traffic should play their role to tackle traffic mess. “Traffic police is meant to enforce Motor and Vehicles Act and regulate the traffic. Give us proper roads and we will regulate traffic. You can’t go around forcing everyone to follow rules that are meant for their own safety.”
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A journalist with seven years of working experience in Kashmir.

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