Stuck & Sore

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MIAN TUFAIL

IN a disconcerting turn of events, major towns and Srinagar city of Kashmir are grappling with an unprecedented traffic mess, leaving commuters frustrated and authorities scrambling for solutions. The persistent congestion has brought to light critical concerns regarding the region’s infrastructure and urban planning, with citizens expressing growing dissatisfaction.

Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, along with key towns like Baramulla, Sopore, Anantnag and Shopian are witnessing chaotic traffic conditions, particularly during peak hours. The situation has escalated to a point where daily commuting has become a gruelling ordeal.

Experts point to several factors contributing to the escalating traffic woes. Inadequate road infrastructure, surge in vehicle numbers, and insufficient public transportation options have been identified as primary issues. The outdated road network struggles to accommodate the burgeoning population and increasing vehicular density.

  • Frustration hangs thick

The locals are increasingly vocal about their frustrations, citing daily struggles to navigate through the labyrinth of congested roads. Talking to KC, Bisma Rashid, a lawyer who travels regularly from Chadoora to Srinagar for her daily cases in lower district court of Srinagar, says the 20-minute travel has turned into the nightmare due to rampant traffics jams in Srinagar and outer arteries. “What should be a 20-minute commute often turns into a two-hour ordeal,” laments Bisma, adding, “the traffic situation has gone from bad to worse, and it’s affecting our daily lives”.

Businesses are also feeling the impact, as delivery schedules are disrupted and customers find it challenging to access shops and services. The ripple effects are being felt across various sectors, raising concerns about the long-term economic implications if the traffic situation is not swiftly addressed.

A group of students at the Sopore Degree College tell KC about how much they are suffering due to regular traffic congestion. Among them, Athar Ali says: “The Sopore bypass road connecting to Kupwara a picture of congestion. The whole stretch has been occupied by loaded trucks at peak hours of the morning and the evening. We can neither reach college on time nor reach home before dusk”.

In Baramulla district, the most frequent spots which continue to witness frequent traffic jams are Sangrama, Pattan, Sopore Bypass and Delina and as one gets out of the mess while heading towards the city, one gets halted again at Qamarwari and then at Batamaloo. And when one heads further in the city, things are worse.  Similar is the situation at other places like Anantnag, Shopian, Kulgam and Handwara. When complete breakdown happens, the police personnel and Army men regulate the traffic at different routes in Kashmir.

  • What says the traffic police?

Penalising the traffic violators alone can’t smoothen the traffic management system in the Srinagar city and major towns of the Kashmir Valley, but improving facilities in the public transport system could be the right way to reduce the increasing traffic congestion in cities and towns. A traffic police official says, “We have a clear roadmap with us to regulate the traffic management in the Valley. There are unregistered vehicles which ply on roads and sometimes careless driving at prominent junctions leads to traffic mess in which our personnel work promptly to regulate the traffic. We get reports of congestion and we look into the complaints and get into action without delay”.

  • The government response and future plans

In response to the growing crisis, the local administration has taken up large scale road building and widening to alleviate the traffic jams. In this regard, Baramulla-Srinagar highway is being widened to maximum width and flyover bridge construction has been started at numerous important junctions in the City and major towns like Pattan and Sangrama. Plans for the expansion of the existing roads, the construction of new thoroughfares, and improvements in public transportation infrastructure are reportedly in the pipeline.

The infusion of public transport is at a nascent stage at present. Public vehicles travel along specific routes only and they are overcrowded. The launch of e-buses in Srinagar is certainly an improvement. They will create a harmonious balance between ecology and physical mobility. These e-buses would ply on 15 intra-city routes and two inter-city routes and would run a minimum of 200 km per day from 8 am to 8 pm. The e-buses are equipped with universal access and an HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) system, an on-board vehicle tracking system, CCTV, and an emergency stop facility. A dedicated mobile app and online ticket payment facility have been developed for the convenience of the passengers. All the buses are integrated with Srinagar Smart City’s Integrated Command and Control Centre. A bus depot is coming up at Pantha Chowk and charging sub-stations have been developed for smooth operation of e-buses.

These e-buses will surely bring a sigh of relief to the residents and commuters travelling to Srinagar but the government must think of the peripheral areas which are badly muddled under traumatising experiences of traffic congestion these days and a policy must be worked out to ease congestion in the rural and major towns of the Valley.

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