Flyover projects abandoned, road-widening proposals remain on paper
Chaotic traffic conditions in cities of Jammu and Kashmir is a constant reminder that successive state governments have followed misplaced policies towards strengthening basic infrastructure in Jammu and Srinagar.
In the absence of parking lots and no major expansion of roads in the past two decades, especially in Jammu, the traffic situation in the city, having a population of 15 lakh, is getting worse and worse with each passing day.
Though much importance has been given to Comprehensive Mobility Plan (CMP) formulated by a private company to end poor infrastructure-related problems of two capital cities of J&K, Jammu and Srinagar, Rs 20,000 crore needed for each city to revamp urban infrastructure is beyond the scope of annual budgetary plans and grants.
Recently, the government had announced to implement Rs 16,632-crore CMP for Jammu in a phased manner, which included 50 km-long monorail service and a 130-km-long Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) system. But experts say that it too ambitious as Jammu does not have space to build the rapid transport system and there is a need to expand the city.
People remain caught in snarls for hours together daily to reach their destination. The urban transport system and allied infrastructure are on the verge of collapse due to unplanned expansion, visionless development of infrastructure in the last six decades.
Failure to attract private sector investment due to special status of the state has further added to the chaos.
In the past three decades, the city has not seen any major road expansion project and the only flyover thrown open in the 1990s is witnessing ever-rising number of vehicles.
While work on the second flyover, 1.5-km-long Bikram Chowk-Gandhi Nagar in the winter capital, is going on at full swing, other projects were abandoned mainly due to political interference and fund constraints.
Under Vision-2020, the government had proposed the construction of four flyovers to ease the volume of traffic on roads, but there is only one flyover functional at the moment that too was commissioned in 1999.
In 2007, a project worth Rs 30 crore, approved to construct a flyover on the BC Road-Ambphalla stretch to ease traffic pressure on the New Plot-Janipur road, was dropped because the state had declined to bear the cost of land compensation.
Similarly, a Jewel Chowk-Canal road flyover was left out due to the same reason.
An official of the R&B Department said Asian Development Bank (ADB) had agreed to fund BC Road-Ambphalla and Jewel Chowk-Canal Road projects in 2007, but it backed off following the lack of interest shown by the then NC-Congress government in 2009.
“The city is facing shortage of space and till the municipal limits are expanded there cannot be any respite from chaotic traffic conditions. We are already a decade behind in creating road infrastructure which is the main reason for the present mess,” said an official of the R&B Department.
The rising number ofvehicles is eating up its scarce road space at an alarming pace due to lack of parking lots and the failure of government to create such an arrangement.
Government data says that 12,95,780 vehicles have been registered by the Motor Vehicles Department (MVD) up to August 2015 and half of them in the Jammu region. On an average, about 1 lakh vehicles have been added annually during the last three years.
Illegal parking on roads is not only creating chaos, but has also become a major reason for traffic jams. In congested markets of Residency Road, Jain Bazar, Panjtirthi, Gumat Chowk, Parade Shalamar, Purani Mandi, Raghunath Bazar, BC road, High Court road, Gandhi nagar and Canal Road, there is virtual chaos.
The Jammu Development Authority (JDA), an agency, created about 40 years ago for maintaining urban infrastructure, has so far created parking space for just 1,700 vehicles in the city. Other ambitious projects, including multi-parking buildings, are delayed as the agency has failed to identify land for the purpose.
Work, started recently on building a parking lot at the bus stand and Panjthirthi, is already over five years behind schedule. Others proposed at old city is still being planned. Vehicles on either side of the city’s arterial roads are a common sight, disrupting the smooth flow vehicles. Even fire tenders and ambulances find it difficult to pass the roads.
Congestion is emerging as the biggest problem and in the absence of proper management and manpower shortage, traffic police personnel have failed to deal with the situation.
Further, in the absence of any long-term planning, the Jammu Development Authority (JDA) and the Municipal Corporation (MC) have failed to create any additional space and some of the plans are facing fund crunch.