By Ajmal Hussain
Gilgit city suffers due to serious urban traffic problems like congestion, lack of parking space, rise in accidents and the environmental issues. Recent years have seen a huge spike in the number of privately owned vehicles in the region, which has strained the traffic infrastructure enormously, while also damaging the natural environment.
Traffic congestion and car parking problems have severely disrupted the entire traffic management system in Gilgit city. The traffic congestion and lack of parking space are not only affecting mobility of vehicles, they are also becoming an increasingly significant cause of social stress. The situation calls for an immediate and effective intervention from the concerned quarters.
Half-witted efforts to address the issue have yielded no results. The problem keeps getting worse due to inability of the traffic police and other quarters.
Poetically speaking, مرض بڑھتا گیا جوں جوں دوا کی
Just like any other growing metropolitan in the world, Gilgit city is unavoidably subjected to all the prevalent traffic issues. Scores of people are required to move at the same time for efficient operations of economy, businesses, schools, as well as to meet other requirements of routine life using private automotive vehicles. Gilgit city could have been developed as a model city but unfortunately the concept of town planning is hitherto missing from the priorities of political governments. Without construction of new road or the widening of the existing ones, a small contingent of traffic police is left on roads to manage the swarming cars. The traffic police have no other option but to conduct various experiments on a daily basis. The availability of NCP vehicles in Gilgit-Baltistan has enabled a large segment of the population to own personal cars. However, due to lack of appropriate and effective measures, the traffic system in the city has now become hazardous for the environment. Roads, markets, and residential areas are still being constructed without due consideration of town planning. Today, the traffic system inside the city, especially in Gilgit Bazaar, has become intolerably congested. If this situation persists, the traffic system will take it’s worst form in the near future. This problem could have been solved to some extent if previous governments had paid timely attention and shown foresight. Infact we live in a society where it’s not possible to expand modern infrastructure system like Europe or Western societies, nor the federation have the resources to bring about a system of European countries overnight.
If we bring in the resources that are available, the traffic system can be improved to some extent. The first step is to reduce the flow of traffic pressure, with the completion of incomplete roads connecting the entire city. The project of 35-feet- 3km long Veterinary Hospital to DC office road is incomplete and under-construction for a long time. Traffic is under pressure from Shaheed Millat Road and the special market areas. Similarly, further expansion of River Road and the establishment of an “Administrative Traffic Unit” in the city and a system of vocational training facility in which traffic personnel would acquire excellent training as well as pay-dependent time with a reward-based system. Strict actions against violators of law can be controlled to some extent by ensuring the use of driving licenses. In addition, intense traffic flow can be reduced through mutual understanding between the traffic police and the general public. For instance, car parking facilities provided by market developers or owners before the project is built and completed on major city roads. Organizing seminars, workshops for awareness campaigns, and consultation with all stakeholders can purhaps overcome this problem. In addition, strict actions against the Mafia’s who are engaged in illegal encroachments on government property and it has been reported that some government mafia’s are also involved in the transaction of give and take basis. The Current government must take this issue seriously and ensure that the traffic police is provided with the best value to the general public.
From the standpoint of traffic engineering, poor public transportation system is also a big issue. Since, I am born, raised and lived in Gilgit city, Suzukis have been invariably the only means of public transport during my entire life. These Suzukies are being operated on the main Bazar Area without a single route being operated on Shaheed-e-Millat Road or River View Road which also affects the smooth flow of the traffic. Intra-city roads Diversion of these Suzukies or introduction of new public transportation system is the dire need of the hour.
Instead of basing the solutions to the problems of traffic in Gilgit, it is now the time to apply intelligent traffic solutions and traffic engineering techniques. Like any other field of professional specialty, traffic management also needs specialists so that proper techniques be used to resolve which type of solutions are required in the prevailing conditions. A new department of Traffic Management can be introduced to manage the overcrowding in the city. This new department can be comprised of traffic engineers, traffic magistrates and traffic police with delegated by powers. Excise and Taxation department has to give a policy to regulate the existing NCP vehicles and give a full-stop to the incumbent vehicles as well.
The contributor is an official of PTI Gilgit-Baltistan.