‘Smart Srinagar’: Govt speeds up developmental works, citizens welcome intent but question timing

Greater Kashmir visited eight spots being revamped under the Srinagar Smart City (SSC) to take stock of the situation and spoke to office goers, students, residents, transporters, and shopkeepers to know their response to the ongoing works
Nijaya Tabasum, a student at Government Women College, M A Road, Srinagar said that since the construction works in the City Centre had been taken up, their lives had become miserable.
Nijaya Tabasum, a student at Government Women College, M A Road, Srinagar said that since the construction works in the City Centre had been taken up, their lives had become miserable.Aman Farooq/ GK

Srinagar: Altaf Ahmad Kitab, who runs a footwear shop in Lal Chowk is distressed to see the poor planning in the execution of development works in the city under Srinagar Smart City (SSC).

“The wrong timings chosen for the developmental works in the City Centre is causing huge problems to a commoner, the worst being traffic chaos,” Kitab said. He suggests carrying out construction work during the nights to save people from hassles.

Nijaya Tabasum, a student at Government Women College, M A Road, Srinagar said that since the construction works in the City Centre had been taken up, their lives had become miserable.

“Work on a drain is going on near Pratap Park. The condition of the road is so bad that one can’t walk as the area is full of filth, mud, and water,” she said. Tabasum also wondered why the construction works are carried out in late autumn and winter when the weather is not suitable.

Hilal Ahmad, an auto rickshaw driver at Abi Guzar, said that traffic congestion needs to be eased. “School buses, ambulances, and tourist vehicles get stuck in traffic for hours although the traffic police personnel on the ground try their best to restore it,” he said.

Tahir Najar, an officer-goer called these projects a “waste of money”. “Last year too, the government did some beautification of roads at Lambert Lane and near the office of the Traffic Police Department. Their condition today is abysmal. Such projects are only done to mint money,” he said.

Currently, over a dozen major projects are being executed in Srinagar under the SSC. One among them is the development of Maulana Azad (MA) Road which includes the installation of a sewage line, drainage, ducting for electric wires, construction of the road, and maintenance of footpaths.

“We have completed the sewage and drainage work from Café De Linz to Regal Chowk. Now, we are working on the Ghanta Ghar to Regal Chowk stretch. We had a six-month deadline and four months have passed. We are hopeful that work will be completed on time,” said Muhammad Younis, Junior Engineer of HRCC that is executing the work. On Jhelum Bund in Lal Chowk, the authorities are coming up with a cycling track.

“It has been almost a month and it looks like the work has been abandoned here. One can't find any workers on the ground. A few months back, some portion of the bund was dug up. Its fencing was also broken. Later, some portion of the bund was cemented while the remaining portion has been left unattended,” said Ishtiyaq Ahmad, a pedestrian walking over the Foot Bridge at Rajbagh.

City’s Polo View Market is being fully redeveloped as a pedestrian market and the work on which is going on full swing, officials said.

“We are expecting this project to be finished by the end of February 2023,” said an official of SSC who was present at the location.

As of now, the construction of the Batamaloo-Qamarwari main road is on.

“It is giving a bad look to the important stretch which connects Srinagar with the north Kashmir districts of Bandipora and Baramulla. When it is clear that blacktopping isn’t possible in winter, what was the need to start the work now? Unfortunately, no one has an answer to this question,” said Bashir Ahmad, a local of Iqra Colony, Bemina.

With the residents of Srinagar complaining about traffic chaos due to the ongoing projects of SSC, Greater Kashmir contacted the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), Traffic City, Muzaffar Ahmad Shah who admitted that the ongoing projects were hampering the movement of traffic on the city roads.

“With multiple projects going on at a time, it has shrunk the width of the road, causing traffic gridlock. Also, the change in school timing clashes with the opening of business establishments in the city which is also a cause of concern,” he said. “But our cops are on the roads. They ensure that there are no traffic jams and we are regulating traffic in the best possible way.” On the query of the Srinagar residents saying it was the wrong time to take up such projects, Chief Engineer SSC Iftikhar Ahmad Kakroo told Greater Kashmir that these projects had been started a few months back.

“They are not new projects but work on them began a few months ago and we need to complete them on the given deadlines,” he said.

On whether there was a change in work timings, Kakroo said, “We were planning it but the cold weather conditions are not allowing us to do so.”

Regarding the deadlines, he said, “Most of the projects are finishing in June next year, especially blacktopping of roads which is not possible now as winter has set in.”

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the SSC, Athar Aamir Khan told Greater Kashmir that over 85 projects were functional in different parts of the city.

 “There are two types of projects - one is area-based development projects and another is pan-city projects and we are expecting to complete all projects in a year and a half,” Khan said.

On the suggestions that the time was not right for taking up such projects due to the winter that was causing inconvenience to the people on various fronts, Khan said that every project had its life cycle.

“This is a step-by-step process. Sometimes, we need to close the work sites as well to continue the work and inconvenience would be caused. It is necessary as the projects demand it,” he said. “Without any delay, we are working to complete them. We also review projects daily and have detailed meetings with all our officials.”

Regarding drainage which remains a major issue during the winter, Khan said that dewatering stations had been adequately equipped.

“Fuel, gensets, manpower rationalisation, control room, dewatering station, everything has been kept ready,” said Khan, who is also Commissioner of Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC).

“This year, we also identified a few invariably water-logging spots where drainage cleanliness and maintenance have been done. A total of 300 km have been cleaned up and this helps us in dewatering the city,” he said.

About the change in deadlines and drawings of the project, Khan said that there were no changes in the deadlines.

“The normal deadline is 12 months but we always try to squeeze it. We want the project to be completed before the given deadline,” he said. “The change in drawings can be natural because while the project is in process, we come across such an issue in the middle of the work which is not known to us earlier and drawings then face some changes. We have engineers and consultants for it.”

However, Khan assured that once these projects would be completed, they would bring a lot of relief to the city residents.

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