Haphazard implementation of Smart City projects evoke resentment

Simultaneous works create traffic jams across Srinagar
"Srinagar has been defaced by these mega construction projects,” said a trader.
"Srinagar has been defaced by these mega construction projects,” said a trader. Aman Farooq for Greater Kashmir

Srinagar: Commuters and traders have expressed strong resentment against simultaneous execution works including Smart City projects across the summer capital saying haphazard implementation chokes roads and leads to traffic jams.

They said various projects like drainage, roads, and other development projects have forced partial closure of roads and traffic diversions across the city.

The business community said that although they are for the development, the haphazard way these works are executed have hit their business and cause gridlocks. “While Srinagar has been defaced by these mega construction projects,” said a trader. 

Simultaneous construction projects in Srinagar areas like Residency Road, M A Road, Polo View, Jhelum Bund, Downtown, Eidgah, Foreshore, Shalimar,  have crippled the city.

The business community in Srinagar said that they were hoping that they would be taken on board so that they could cooperate with authorities. Farhan Kitab, head of the Kashmir Retailers Association, said that traders “were not taken on board in this regard.”

“We are important stakeholders, and we want a developed city. It should have been done in coordination with us so that we could have done our business accordingly. Our business is badly hit as roads are partially closed. Whole city is in a mess. We could have even closed our shops according to a timetable to make way for construction. We hope authorities will look into it,” Kitab said.

The commuters, office goers, and students are also bearing the brunt of these haphazard projects.

“The haphazard manner in which these projects are carried out is making the situation worse. We already have an issue with traffic jams, now when there are multiple construction projects after every kilometer, the situation is difficult. These projects have forced closure of roads at various places and resulted in traffic jams. Students and other commuters are suffering. The work should have been carried out so that minimum inconvenience is caused. We are all for the development of roads and drains, but there should be a well-thought-out plan to do so,” said Ishfaq Ahmad, a student.

Greater Kashmir spoke to various experts and Town planners about the ongoing project, including Smart City projects. They said that all the projects have to be done in a coordinated way so that the least inconvenience is caused and normal life does not come to a standstill.

Hamid Wani, a senior town planner said such projects would disrupt normal life, but there is always scope to improve. He also questioned whether the ongoing projects will achieve the “dream of Srinagar’s Smart city.”

“This development initiative started almost a decade back. Have we achieved anything like the Smart City as of yet? We cannot take up projects in a cosmetic manner and say that we are creating a smart city. If we execute a project in a way that R&B does SMC work, SMC work is done by SDA, and without coordination, it will create issues,” Wani said.

The experts also believe that coordination under one umbrella, having a city development council, and expert opinions are important aspects of Smart City creation.

Gulzar Ahmad, Divisional Town Planner, said that whenever such projects are executed, there is an alternative plan to keep normal life going. He also said that taking transporters business community on board is an important thing because they are important stakeholders.

“We cannot let Traffic police handle everything. We must take help from experts while executing projects and managing how the fallout will affect important things like traffic. And all the things have to be done keeping the Master Plan in consideration. I am not sure if that is being done. Instead of concretisation, we should focus on increasing green cover and do things in a coordinated way,” he said. An official informed that many projects executed under the Smart City are not in tune with the Srinagar Master Plan.

A senior official from Srinagar Traffic police said that multiple projects are going on simultaneously, which have created bottlenecks and triggered traffic jams.

“These projects are carried out by multiple agencies like SMC, ERA, LCMA, Drainage department, and National Buildings Construction Corporation (NBCC). We are trying to regulate traffic in the best possible way and we hope soon some of the projects will be completed and we will get a respite,” said the official.

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