Srinagar roads get overhaul

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Hamidullah Dar

After two decades of neglect the roads of Srinagar are undergoing macadamisation on a massive scale that aims to take its ramshackle roads nearer if not at par with glistening roads of Jammu.
Men, material and machines are working in tandem to complete the scheduled 327 kilometers of rough roads. And for the first time Srinagar has been placed at par with Jammu so far as the sanction of funds is concerned, courtesy a centrally sponsored scheme.
In the last two decades, Srinagar received little amount of funds for maintenance of its roads while as Jammu witnessed lavish treatment. While giving details of the macadamisation works going on in Srinagar city, Minister of State for Roads and Buildings, Javed Ahmad Dar says, “It is centrally sponsored scheme for the twin capital cities of Srinagar and Jammu and Rs 100 crores have been earmarked for each city. Repair works and a renewal coat will be laid on the roads to improve their condition.”
For the first time since 1988 that macadamisation work is done on such a scale.  “Basically the turmoil in the valley stymied any effort by the department (R&B) to improve the condition of Srinagar roads at a larger scale. However, when we found the opportunity, it is for everybody to see”, says an R&B official on condition of anonymity.
The black topped roads need a renewal coat after every four years but Srinagar roads are yet to get the same after two decades. “Last time when such a macadamisation drive was undertaken it was in 1988 and in between just repair work was done to run the show. Now we have decided to make our roads smooth and macadamized at regular intervals,” informs Dar.
Besides some roads in civil lines area, the renewal coating is going on Khanyar, Balgarden, Chattabal, Darishkadal, Bakshi Stadium, Rambagh and Chanpora roads. However, this leaves many times more roads unattended in this season.
“We have a total road length of 2200 kilometres in Srinagar out of which 327 kilometres are getting renewal coating this season. If work on any road remains incomplete, that will be accorded preference next year,” says Mushtaq Ahmad Malik, Superintending Engineer R&B.   
So far 180 km road length has been completed and work is in full swing on remaining 147 kilometers. The macadamisation work may have saved some blushes for the politicians while comparing Srinagar and Jammu, but people in general show a mixed response.
“The Soura road is an important road connecting SKIMS to many parts of the valley. The repair of this road should have been given preference but some posh roads used by our bureaucrats and officers are deemed more important,” complains Abdul Rashid Bochoo of Soura.
Amin Aslam, a student from Eidgah also fumes at seeing macadamisation work not reaching his neighbourhood. “The interior of the city has a network of roads but hardly any heed is paid to them. We are made to believe in that there is connectivity all around, but tell me can a road with craters and truncated metaling be called connectivity if it wastes your precious time maneuvering over it,” blurts Aslam.
“We have started the process and even GM Saroori Sahab (Minister for R&B) and me visited various areas of the City and took stock of ongoing macadamisation works. In future we will make it sure that all the roads of the city get macadamized in a phased manner”, says Dar.
There is also concern for government negligence of removing bottleneck roads that result in jam for miles. “What is the fun of decorating a road by only smoothing its surface and leaving other factors unattended? The regular macadamisation of highway has not solved the problem of traffic jam at Panthachowk as the road abruptly constricts into a smaller one making it possible for only two vehicles to pass through”, says Khursheed Ahmad Hajam, a government employee from Sonwar.  
However, Hajam’s neighbour Abdul Majeed has somber expectations. “With macadamisation of roads at comparatively a larger scale undertaken after a gap of 21 years, there is little hope that road widening will complement the repair work and renewal coating,” he said.

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A journalist with seven years of working experience in Kashmir.

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