Although the start of a new development project brings much satisfaction, leaving a project incomplete causes more problems and distress for people.
Giving up on building complexes halfway is not as tormenting as abandoning road projects, especially in the case of improving existing roads. For instance, suspending construction work on the Punjab Sports Complex won’t cause any suffering to the people as compared with stopping road expansion work on the Hudiara Drain Project on Multan Road, which serves as the southern gateway to the provincial capital.
The NHA kicked off the 10.7 kilometre-long Hudiara Drain Project with celerity and enthusiasm. But to everyone’s dismay, it soon hit a dead end. This stretch of road, which remains choked with traffic round-the-clock, was planned to develop into eight lanes – four lanes each way, along with rainwater drains on both sides. The contract was awarded to the contractor and the mobilisation advance for material and machinery had been paid.
At some places, a new lane was added to the existing road and a rainwater drain was constructed. But the lane that was added has remained without an asphalt topping that results in heavy traffic moving on an unmetalled road, raising a cloud of dust and exhaust fumes. Neither has the top of the rainwater drain has been covered nor has its sides been backfilled with grit and stone. Heaps of stone ballasts are placed on the roadside. The present state of the road could result in serious accidents, especially at night when visibility is low.
The infrastructure of Lahore has been remodelled by developing a vast labyrinth of overpasses and underpasses, a metro bus service and, lately, the Orange train. Thokar Niaz Beg, located on Multan Road, has turned into a new traffic junction. It is a meeting point of six roads from different directions. In its earlier tenure, the Shahbaz Sharif-led Punjab government built a gigantic overhead bridge on the confluence of these roads. And above this overhead bridge runs the Orange Line train track. Quite a sight this modern communication system presents.
However, it is difficult to understand why work has been suspended on the Hudiara Drain Project, which provides major access to the maze of road networks at Thokar Niaz Beg? Why have the exit and entry roads on the southern end of the provincial capital failed to draw as much of the Punjab government’s attention as they deserved, despite the exceptionally high traffic intensity on them?
When asked why the work on the project has stalled, we get to hear the usual story of funds not matching the requirements and concerns about the disconnect between the NHA and the revenue department, which acquires land for the road expansion projects. It clearly shows that essential homework had not been carried out before starting the project. If the project had to be abandoned halfway, why initiate it in the first place and leave behind obstacles on the road that would inconvenience commuters?
The authorities don’t seem to care about the traffic chaos that will soon build up, as reportedly about 20,000 new vehicles of all forms are added to the city’s roads every month. An objection that is often raised is that the authorities focus more on improving roads within the main city limits and less on the roads that are used for entering and exiting the city.
Regulating traffic is one of the basic duties of any administration. Unruly traffic on the roads speaks poorly of the administration. This newspaper recently reported that 980 road accidents take place in Punjab on a daily basis. A high volume of accidents leaves thousands dead and wounded, taxing the capacity of the hospitals. Why can’t these accidents be prevented and precious lives saved?
Pakistan is already known as an accident-prone country. If the short stretch of a main thoroughfare that serves as an entry point to the provincial capital is left dug up, commuters will have a hard time during the coming monsoon season.
The writer is a freelance columnist based in Lahore. Email: pinecitygmail.com