Present approaches for solving traffic problems in Srinagar city are not going to address our future problems
Out of more than 100 urban settlement in the state, Srinagar and Jammu capital cities are growing at an unprecedented pace expanding requirements for extension of services and infrastructure continuously. It warrants a comprehensive policy on urbanization alongside an effective urban transport policy to provide relief to the citizens form vexing urban problems and to ensure amenity of urban living to them. Two capital cities are confronted with acute urban problems of congestion, pollution, inadequacy of infrastructure, and services, all assuming challenging proportions. Though the State Government has tried to assess the magnitude of the urban transport problems and prepared a comprehensive mobility plan for the two cities, the plans are eating the dust with only very secant efforts made so far to implement the recommendation contained in the two plans. Some of the recommendations also stand incorporated in the respective Master Plans of the cities. The secant projects implemented or under implementation include construction of flyovers, grade separator near Radio Station junction, shifting of bus terminal from the city centers, up gradation of roads. However, a systemic approach has been missing, despite strenuous efforts.
As a result of development as well as massive increase in population, the traffic activity in our cities is rising in geometric progression. In order to identify the bottlenecks, it is worthwhile to examine some problems in the urban transport scenario. City roads are flooded with non-compatible mix of modes of transport such as slow-moving, hand carts, cycles, and fast moving two wheelers, three wheelers, cars, mini-buses, buses etc. All footpaths, wherever these exist are occupied by street vendors. Also, often roads is the only parking place for vehicles. Vehicles consume more fuel in cities owing to the operating conditions and poor route and traffic management. About 95% of the accidents in the urban areas occur in the state on the urban roads. Traffic and Transportation needs to be looked upon not only as a sector, but all its interlinkages with the other urban aspects need to be integrated. Unless there is an integrated and balanced development with respect to all components and urban aspects, efficiency in mobility standards is not possible. To make our cities livable and functional, urban transport system need to be smarter and of higher order with high mobility standards, high safety, low air and noise pollution, high cost effectiveness, and focused on saving time. As far as the urban roads are concerned, in last 40 years, the growth of the network is insignificant, not even 10 percent. Thus, it is as good as stagnated whenever the road network is increased, it is mainly because of expansion of boundaries of the city. There are some efforts made to increase the capacity of the roads for example by widening, but these efforts are time consuming as several problems are faced in acquisition of land, legalities, public opposition and litigations. Even after the road is widened, it is captured by the commercial and informal establishments illegally. The right of way, again gets reduced and the growth of vehicles, aggravates the problem over the period of time. In both the cities, land use planning lacks interface with transportation planning. Major objective of the land use planning needs to be minimization of travel needs of the urbanities which would require self-sustained and self-reliant development of residential areas. Contrary to this, development in all of our urban centers has been spontaneous and haphazard, without taking in consideration the mobility, not to talk of reduced travel distance or time. The urban development scenario presents a complete chaos which necessitates daily long commutation.
The introduction of high rise development and multistoried buildings in and around the city centers particularly near vital road intersections and junctions has created traffic bottlenecks. Many examples can be cited in two jumbo cities where Local Self Government granted permissions to construct such buildings. In a city like Srinagar or Jammu, travel from city center to new activity areas is an ordeal owing heavy traffic on most of the corridors. For economic prosperity and better city life effective mobility is imperative. As a consequence, alternative options have been adopted and sought to combat the growing needs of elite and the high middle class problems of public transport instead of attending them. Public transport is vanishing from the all routes and mosquito buses dominate the urban scene in both cities which aggravate the problems rather than providing comfort and amenity to the general public who are facing the brunt in face of menacingly growing personal mode of transport in two cities and other towns too. Sumo’s which generally are meant for par transit purposes, have started to cover up the deficiencies in public transport but fall short of service because of the selective routing and also in the absence of terminal facilities are generating all sorts of traffic problems ranging from on street parking, unregulated traffic, erratic service, and accessibility to various parts of the cities. Most of upper economic classes use personalized mode of transport leaving common man in a virtual soup of traffic problems. In the State, road network has more or less remained stagnant on the one had and on the other, there is a boom in number of vehicles on the roads. One of the reason for the growth in the vehicle population is the Government licensing policy for auto dealers, easy loan policy for purchase of vehicles, tempting offers and soft loan which have acted as a catalyst for increase in personalized mode of transport including two wheelers. Srinagar city has experienced a faster rate of increase in the private vehicle ownership as compared to the public transport, like all other Indian metropolitan cities.
Public transport is a vital component of urban transport system having obligation towards urban poor as a mass transport. A close study of the bus system in our two cities indicate that it is in a state of shambles. For need of adequate funds, the replacement and expansion of old worn out buses and augmentation and expansion of services to meet the growing needs of the city are not undertaken in spite of the awareness. Neither the Local Self Government, nor the State Government or State Road Transport Corporation under taking bothers to help of these sinking and sick public transport system. These public transport undertakings cannot increase the fares too. At the same time, they have to provide transport to students, physically handicapped and the other beneficiary groups on concessional rates. Narrow congested roads reduce the speed of public transport or the buses are unfit to be plied, thereby reducing the vehicle utilization and effectiveness of public transport system. The cost on auto spares components and salaries of the employees is another burden for the government. As a result, the losses are increasing beyond their control; year after year and the cumulative losses eat out the little capital of the undertaking. As an obvious consequence, the growth of the intermediate public transport and personalized modes has become a phenomenon of our urban scene as an alternative faster mode of efficient and adequate system under the circumstances. The vicious circle is sparling and expanding and goes on making the urban transport environment miserable and uneconomical.
On the one hand the government wants energy conservation of petroleum products to save foreign exchange but the proliferation of auto vehicles through the government policy acts contrary to this. The government is alive to protecting environment form pollution but its actions in licensing many auto growth of vehicles of incompatible mode in cities works in opposite direction. An adequate efficient and economic public transport system can check the growth of personalized modes of transport. But, strengthening of public has the least priority with the government and concerned agencies.
The high capacity mass transit system are going to be dream like Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi Kolkata and other cities, where the system has made considerable inroads and plays vital role in shaping the urban development of the these cities. The Ministry of Railways has in this respect laid clear policy that the finance shall come the states and the local agencies, for metropolitan rail transit. Both state and the local agencies or city administrations are not in a position and have different priorities for investment, as such there is no hope to have this system coming up in near future in both the capital cities of the state.
The State Motor Vehicle Act, 1988 is alive to the situation regarding safety and environment. But, our past experience regarding enforcement of the Act is not very encouraging. State Government needs to establish a road safety institute to create better driver training facilities as the driver is a key figure as far as road safety, energy conservation and mobility is concerned.
Sundus Samreen Wani is is Pursuing Ph.D from School Of Planning & Architecture, New Delhi.
According to MORTH, J&K tops among two other states in road accidents with an average of over 900 deaths every year in the last five years.
History has given to the women of Kashmir a unique strength, they have the capacity to face adverse circumstance and emerge victorious, this inherent capacity of theirs can turn around the situation in Kashmir.
Source: Greater KashmirBack