Expanding The Road Network In Kashmir
The Roads Blocks We Face, And Why
Road widening is a continuous process in developing economies. The expansion of road network is the foremost indicator of development. But at times, the expansion of the road network by the government gets stalled due to external factors. These external factors hit the expansions of connectivity badly. At times, the halted work on road expansion defaces the face lifting of the cities, towns and villages alike.
What kind of road blocks are the most common ones in Kashmir? Here the the expansion of the road network is impacted by the presence of security bunkers on the roadside or by places of worship which have been made on land encroached along the road. At places, the work is also stalled due to electric poles or water supply lines. These create impediments in the beautification and expansion of road connectivity.
The presence of places of worship made on land encroached along the road is not unique to Kashmir. In the rest of the country, we come across temples built on land encroached along the road side. Hence we find that road widening and upgradation faces a road block right at the temple site.
Security Bunkers Hindering Road Expansion
In Srinagar city and other urban centers of Kashmir, such kind of hindrance is posed by the bunkers constructed by the security forces close to the main arteries. Whether it is the busiest city center or the down town area, there are security bunkers close to the roads which hinder the movement of vehicular traffic and creating impediments in the expansion of the roads.
The busy Budshah bridge remains partially blocked due to the same reason. A huge security bunker has been constructed over the bridge. This is a common sight everywhere in the Srinagar city. We understand that these bunkers were constructed at the spot for ensuring a constant surveillance, and safety and security in the area.
At the same time, it needs to be appreciated that these are temporary structures which can be demolished or relocated as per convenience.
It is known that the security situation in Kashmir has decidedly improved. The change for the better is evident in the low numbers of violent activities. In light of the improved law and order situation, it is essential for the UT Administration to review the placement of security bunkers and other such security structures.
Need To Review Placement Of Security Bunkers
Appropriate departments of the UT Administration must ensure that the bunkers are shifted at least a few meters away from the road side.
There are some areas where security installations are within the proposed expansion areas. In other areas, the road expansion has been stopped because of the boundary walls of the security installations are in the middle of the expansion area.
Take for instance the police station Soura, just opposite to the SKIMS. The police station is located on the corner where Hawal-Soura road and Soura-Ganderbal road converge. The police station is causing a road block on both the sides. The expansion of the road towards Ahmad Nagar has been affected because the police station stands in the middle.
Road Expansion Hindered By Religious Places
At many places in Kashmir, mosques are built along roadside, which hinder the expansion of the road connectivity. This is a common sight across villages, towns and cities. Across Kashmir, there are hundreds of mosques built along the roadside. Till the time the road along the mosque stays in the same way, the presence of the mosque does not cause any hindrance.
But when the time comes to widen the road or upgrade it, the work has to be stalled due to the close presence of the mosque along the road. The same problem is posed by temples in other areas. They are built close to the road. As a result the expansion or upgradation of the road is halted.
There is a simple explanation for this unethical menace of road blocks caused by places of worship. The people who build these places of worship close to the road are not futuristic in their outlook. They are just simple people and they do not think long term about what can be the impact of undertaking such construction close to the road.
This is the reason why there are hundreds of such places of worship in Jammu and Kashmir, which are close to the road. On account of the religious sentiment attached to the places of worship, it is difficult for the government to relocate them. The authorities have no option but to leave the spot untouched. This impacts the road widening effort. In some cases, the spot also becomes prone to accidents.
The Ploy Of The Land Grabbers
Unfortunately, at times the construction of religious places along the road is undertaken deliberately as a cover-up for land-grabbing. Developing a religious place by encroaching upon government land is a deliberate ploy by land grabbers in many cases.
This is a common practice in South Asia that land grabbers encroach upon prime government land in the name of worshipping God. This is common in Kashmir also, especially at the highly prized tourism destinations where land price is very high.
The land grabbers first construct a mosque on state land along roadside. Then they start the construction for residential and commercial purposes next to the mosque. This is prevalent everywhere in Srinagar city and other district headquarters, and also at popular tourist destinations like Pahalgam, Sonmarg, Gulmarg so on and so forth.
Poor Inter-Departmental Planning
In Srinagar city, there is yet another problem which comes in the way of road expansion. It is the ill conceived and poor planning of the departments which come under the category of essential services. There are certain locations where electric poles, water supply lines and even drainage system halts road widening.
It reflects on poor inter-departmental planning that electric poles, water supply lines and the drains should create road blocks in the expansion of road connectivity. There are hundreds of electric poles erected in the middle of the roads. This is perhaps the most common feature which not only creates impediments but also become the cause of accidents, besides presenting the look of extremely poor planning.
These impediments could have been avoided if there had been synergy between the various developmental agencies. When I see the electric poles erected in the middle of the road, I sometimes wonder that is the department or the administration waiting for some terrible accident or loss of human life at the spot to remove the pole?
How much effort does it take for some government department to identify such causes of accidents and take remedial measures? But the same is not done. We have seen this happen at many places in the country. A cause of accident which stared us right in the face was removed only after a terrible accident happened at the spot. This is highly unfortunate.
Lack Of Synergy In Functioning Of Departments
It has often been observed that government departments seem to be working at cross purposes. The public works department macadamizes a road on one day. The Jal Shakti Department digs up the same road the next day. This is a usual practice for both the departments.
Even Srinagar Municipal Corporation vandalizes perfectly good roads for laying down the network of sewage and drainage system. Nobody is questioning the execution of these development activities. But this need not be done by damaging the existing infrastructure.
This practice amounts to huge losses to the state exchequer. Second, it causes great inconvenience to the people. There is urgent need for greater synergy between the various departments and agencies for better conceptualization of the projects. This shall ensure that the overall expenditure on the government projects is less. Second, all the departments shall work in tandem achieving better overall output.
The Srinagar Smart City Project
Ambitious & Arching
The UT Administration is working on the modernization of Srinagar city under the Srinagar Smart City project. Work on the project is going on in full swing. There is a comprehensive plan of giving a new look to Srinagar city and removing the impediments which give it an ugly look.
The Srinagar Smart City project is a Rs 980 crore project covering all facets of modernization of the city including road upgradation, drainage, underground ducting of electric conductors, multi utility zones along road side, street lights, road side parking, buffer zones of green patches and rationalization of infrastructural units.
Smart city project is perhaps the first well-conceived, comprehensive project which takes care of all facets of modernization of Jammu and Kashmir’s twin capital cities – Srinagar and Jammu. This centrally funded project aims at the modernization of the city in consonance with any developed metropolitan, without compromising on the specific traditional and cultural aesthetics of either Srinagar or Jammu.
Sensitive To Local Needs
Importantly, the plan is also sensitive to the particular situational needs of Srinagar. On account of its distinct weather and geographical features, Srinagar must to be developed in a way that suits its specific conditions.
Talking to Kashmir Central, the officials associated with the Srinagar Smart city project gave a detailed account of how Srinagar city is being developed under this ambitious project. They said that the city is being developed strictly in adherence to the Indian Road Congress guidelines and Urban Road Congress guidelines.
The officials told Kashmir Central that the bottlenecks, whether in the form of electric poles or other permanent or temporary structures, are to be removed to pave way for the uniform carriageway. Under the project, the officials said, the road restructuring in the Srinagar city shall be strictly maintained with uniformity.
“We are carrying out the development of roads with 3.5 meters width on each side. Though we have some roads of total width of 10 meters, the remaining 3 meters are being developed as pedestrian path, road side parking and other useful purposes,” said the Executive Engineer of the Srinagar Smart City Project, Zahoor Ahmad Dar. He said that the city center Lal Chowk is being developed on modern lines.
Pedestrian Zones For Srinagar
“We are making it Lal Chowk as more of a pedestrian zone. Tiles will be laid in Lal Chowk in a way which may restrict the speed of the vehicles to minimum. Clock Tower Plaza is being reconstructed so that it does not hamper distance view. Polo View will be developed as a strictly pedestrian zone. There will be no vehicular movement on that road,” Dar told Kashmir Central.
Underground ducting of the electricity conductors on Residency Road and the Bund area is part of the project. The Executive Engineer said that underground ducting of conductors is also proposed in Down Town area, which is under tendering process.
Effort To Complete Project On Time
There will be homogeneity in resurfacing and blacktopping of roads taken under the Srinagar Smart City Project. The contractors who have secured the tender of the Smart City Project told Kashmir Central that Srinagar city will wear a fascinating look once the project is complete. “We are working day and night to ensure that we cause the minimum inconvenience to the people and complete the project within the stipulated time period,” said Mr Mohd Yaqoob, Director HRCC.
The most challenging job is the augmentation of drainage and sewage network in the city. Said Mr Yaqoob, “We are in the process of laying the sewer line from TRC to Amira Kadal. The drainage is existing, and we have to augment it to enhance the carriage capacity. Also, the proper arrangements to enhance the flow of storm water on roads are being done by providing catch pits at regular intervals. Karan Nagar market is being upgraded to provide ample walking area for pedestrians. The walking space around the market shall enhance the economic activity in the area. Public utilities like illumination, drainage and sewerage are also under upgradation,” informed Mr Yaqoob.