Jehangir Chowk–Rambagh Flyover: A Viable Project
This Project is a well thought out and planned venture for decongesting traffic on one of the arterial roads in Srinagar city
COUNTER POINT BY KHALID MUZAFFAR
This is in response to an article titled Defacing the City, by Mr Rafique A. Khan published in Daily Greater Kashmir, 24th April, 2012. Since Mr Khan raised some issues regarding the viability of the project it therefore necessitates an elaborate debate about the points raised. The construction of Expressway Corridor (Flyover) along the Airport road from Jehangir Chowk to Ram Bagh is proposed to be constructed with the financial assistance of Asian Development Bank (ADB). Some of the issues/observations made by Mr Khan had been raised by him earlier in a communication addressed to ADB & J&K Economic Reconstruction Agency (ERA). The same were answered by ERA and sent to Mr. Khan through an e-mail (on the address mentioned in his letter to ADB) on 20 April 2012. He has not responded to this communication so far. Now that Mr Khan has brought this issue in public domain and has appealed the general public to raise their voice against execution of this project, it is necessary to educate the general public about the matter and ERA’s point of view.
At the outset, we strongly object to the title Defacing the city which is purely Mr. Khan’s own way of describing an infrastructural activity that is bound to provide succour to thousands of people who daily have to commute on this one of the arterial roads leading to city centre. The observation that construction of a Flyover will be an ugly intrusion in the area is author’s own manifestation which has no relevance to such a modern day accepted way of easing traffic congestion where land acquisition is one of the major problem with its huge financial and resettlement aspects. Even if his argument is accepted for the sake of argument, how come Flyovers are being constructed at such brisk pace all across the world and are considered one of the best indicators of the quality of urban infrastructure.
The writer has objected to proposed construction on technical, social and environmental issues as also on the bogey of heritage design. It is a well known fact that construction of Flyover is not considered anti-heritage in any part of world, but a modern day concept adopted world over including world famous heritage cities like Rome, Cairo etc. Incidentally Srinagar is not UNESCO designated Heritage city as contended by Mr Khan . The project is well beyond the prohibited and regulated areas of the Srinagar city which include Mughal Gardens like Nishat Bagh, Shalimar Bagh, Chashma Shahi, Pari Mahal as per the UNESCO website http://whc.unesco.org/en/tentativelists/5580. The distance of proposed flyover from the nearest site in the tentative list (Pari Mahal) is more than 10 Km.
As far as the social and environmental issues are concerned, these are well addressed in the project appraisal report/safeguard documents prepared by ERA which are available on the web sites of ERA and ADB. The Government of J&K and JKERA have already initiated measures for resettlement of 285 shop-keepers affected or displaced by the project. In fact 99 shopkeepers of Cheap & Kabaddi markets in Jehangir Chowk have already been rehabilitated in the new shopping centre built by Srinagar Municipal Corporation for the purpose. For the remaining shopkeepers, JK ERA is constructing two shopping complexes, one near Exhibition-grounds and another one at Ram Bagh. The technical parameters and structural design of the proposed flyover have been prepared on the basis of detailed engineering inputs including traffic surveys. The proposal has got the approval from RITES, while the structural design prepared by ERA’s Consultants has been checked and approved by IIT Roorke, a premier Engineering university of the country. Mr Khan must be knowing the standards of this institution and as such there should be no doubt in any body’s mind about the stability of the structure . We are conscious of the fact that Srinagar falls in very critical seismic zone. The structural design is adequate and safe in so far as this aspect is concerned. A Traffic Management Plan has also been developed to provide vehicle and pedestrian access and maintain community linkages during the construction-period; some hardships will be met by shopkeepers as well as commuters but in the long run they will get benefitted by this prestigious project.
Mr Khan contends that Flyover will not improve the existing horrible traffic conditions, asserting further that the traffic- situation will worsen after its construction. As per the traffic-survey conducted recently it is observed that a vehicle takes around 16 minutes (during peak-traffic) to cover a distance of around 2.50 Km from Jehangir Chowk to Ram Bagh. This scenario is going to change upon construction of Flyover with travel time reduced to around 2.5 minutes for vehicles moving over the elevated corridor. The survey also establishes that 58 % of total volume of traffic shall be taking the elevated route.
Why and how author has made an opinion that only few “Lal baati cars ” will take Fly over route is for him to explain while common sense says that whosoever has to commute from Jehangir Chowk to Rambagh will always take Fly over route only.
Next Mr Khan refers to existing Flyover (Grade separator) at Jehangir Chowk and Hyderpora Byepass. What Mr Khan wants to convey is best known to him but from his comment he seems to be suggesting that these structures do not gel with the surroundings. Keeping in view the constraints of space and necessity of projects some compromises are to be made. In this context we would like to give example of two prestigious projects in a city like Delhi. One is Fly over to Dwarka from Airport. Most of this Fly over passes through congested built up area where a person travelling on flyover is moving at level with 1st and 2nd floor of residential houses. Similarly the prestigious Metro-rail in Delhi is almost touching the residential lines in Lajpat Nagar area.
Mr Khan talks about shops being over shadowed by Fly over. At present also due to high rise buildings on both sides of the road these shops are over shadowed by imposing heights of more than 35 feet. He also feels that there will be abnormal increase in vibrations, dust and noise levels. In our opinion with decrease in traffic at street level, these will get reduced. At present due to jamming of traffic and indiscipline in maintaining lanes the noise of honking is too high. Upon completion of Fly over, the traffic will have signal free ride upto Rambagh. As such there will not be any horn honking. With around 58 % traffic taking fly over route (as per our projection), the volume of traffic at street-level will considerably decline, reducing in turn the impact of all the three factors cited above.
Mr Khan cites his petition with 150 signatures having been sent for revaluation. This petition suggesting some alternatives was well received by the Government and after thoughtful considerations, was not found practicable as per ground conditions. It may not be out of place to mention that out of the 150 signatories to the petition, more than half must not have visited Kashmir for the last 20 years. How can they asses the traffic situation and sufferings of locals with respect to traffic congestion is for all to guess.
Mr Khan has written that ADB also asked the Kashmir Government to respond, adding further that this was altogether ignored. In this context it is necessary to clarify that ADB Mission did take up the issue and visited the alternative route suggested by Mr Khan. The project along the alternative route (Batamaloo-Alouchi bagh) was conceived long back by R&B Department, but it had to be shelved due to its complicated and intricate acquisition pattern involving large number of house-holds, business establishments, mosques/grave yards and above all filling of Doodh Ganga Nallah. The acquisition of such scale is going to take decades keeping in mind the reluctance of local population to leave their ancestral places.
In the end we would like to advice an emancipated person like Mr. Rafique A Khan to desist from using words like “official arrogance and ignorance” as people in this part of the world are also know tit bits of urban planning and have lots of tolerance in dealing with public issues. One should have patience to listen to counter point as well and never insist on being always correct. We would like the debate to go on as it educates us further for better tomorrow for our people.
Khalid Muzaffar is Director, Central, J&K ERA
Lastupdate on : Tue, 1 May 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 1 May 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 2 May 2012 00:00:00 IST
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