Thursday, July 29, 2010

Widening is a losing game, why try?

Widening is a losing game, why try?

Residents feel BBMP's plan on St John's Church Rd will cause more pain than gain

Shilpa CB



Can a road ever be broad enough or perfect enough that it would meet all expectations? Those working and living on St John's Church Road do not think so.
The stretch from Coles Park to Sepping's Road junction was broadened just five years ago. And, today, it is back to square one. Cars line up during rush hour on this spacious stretch. All the chaos just dies down a couple of hours after the children in the various schools around are safely inside and all the office-goers have reached their workplaces.
Add a couple of lanes more to this stretch, the chaos will still be a regular feature twice a day during peak hours, residents and businessmen say. Red marks left behind by the BBMP and the notices they distributed recently have left the residents and shop owners confused.
Information is hard to come by. BBMP engineers are not clear about what they intend to do and when. "Whatever is done should be done for the benefit of the public also. It is important to add the word 'also' because it is not clear why this project is being implemented," says Khaleel Ahmed, a businessman who has been running a repair shop here for 30 years.
It is no surprise that those who stand to lose their livelihood and ties with this place are confused. "The BBMP engineers did not say when this would be done. It may take a year, it may take two years, according to them," says G Babu, an employee at a car sales office.
"Nobody has got the exact measurement. I have spoken to the AEE but have got no answers," says Mohammed Javeed, an entrepreneur. Javeed, who settled down here in the 1980s and owns a house here, is being asked to give up part of his parking space and shops he rents out in exchange for transfer of development rights. But he does not want "a paper that can be read like a newspaper and thrown out".
What is the point of having TDR when people construct as many floors as they want, flouting rules and permissions? In a land where law is not implemented, such options are of little value, he says. "Beggars cannot be choosers in a city where citizens are being reduced to beggars," he adds.
TDR could benefit those who have the land or sturdy building to build further, says M Suleman Sharief, Congress president of Shivajinagar Block. Sharief, who owns a wedding hall, part of which could be acquired by BBMP for its project, dismisses TDR as an option for the many small-land holders.
"But that's not the point we should be debating over," he says. "We need flyovers or overbridges to allow traffic to pass the junction. Broadening the road, demolishing houses, and uprooting people is not the way to do anything," he says.
Restaurateur Rana Sikander too suggests that an underpass at the Haine's Road and St John's Church Road junction and a flyover connecting to Cantonment Station will give much relief to commuters.
Venkatesh VS, proprietor of a shop here, is open to an elevated road being built here although his business may suffer during the construction. "In the long run, that's the only permanent solution. Traffic can move on both roads. Exit roads can be provided every couple of kilometres. Businessmen at the ground level can continue as usual," he says.
Venkatesh has strong reasons for backing this solution which he says has already been proposed by the government. "This is one of the major link roads that connect north and west of the city to the south and the east. In fact, it is called the Inner Core Ring Road. The other roads are Palace Road and Ring Road. Both are far away," he says.
Traffic density has grown here after the international airport opened. It takes a lot of load. Ambulances that rush to the many hospitals around often bear the brunt of congestion. Also the numerous schools in the area attract vehicles of all sizes. Regulating this and changing the one-way system suitably could help. While Sepping's Road is not used properly, Haine's Road is overburdened. This inequity can be rectified by making the passage smooth at the end of Sepping's Road.
"Adequate parking facilities for the market area near Commercial Street will clear the roads and encourage people to use them more," says Khaleel Ahmed.
If these alternatives do not solve the problem, widening can be considered. But spare the right side that has the shops, restaurants and houses. Instead, acquire land from the park, the school, the church, the army on the left, suggests Sharief.
Pushed to a corner into believing that protests against the "government" are futile, citizens do not see the point in voicing their opinion. "What happened on CMH road? The shop owners had to give in. If the government is bent on doing this, what can we say? All we can ask is that they give us TDR as well as compensation, " says Mohammed Liyaquath, the owner of a 3,800 sq ft furniture shop.
He hopes that the road widening exercise will improve his business and benefit road users.

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