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January 10, 2019

Businesses reeling from slow work on BRT


January 10, 2019

PESHAWAR: Not only the traffic system in the provincial metropolis has become a total mess, but the businesses in the city have suffered heavy losses due to delay in completion of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project.

The businesses on the Sunehri Masjid Road, Stadium Chowk, Shoba Bazaar, Khyber Bazaar, Grand Trunk Road, Hashtnagri, Faqirabad, Haji Camp and main University Road have been sluggish since the launching of the project last year. The business in other trade centres close to the BRT routes has also been affected badly.

Inaugurating work on the BRT project in October 2017, the provincial government had claimed it would be completed within six months.

The government assured thousands of shopkeepers that they will be able to run their businesses as per routine after the completion of project.

The authorities later changed several dates for the completion of the project. However, a lot of work still has to be done. This has caused anger among the business community who has been suffering heavy losses due to the drop in the number of customers.

“Like hundreds and even thousands of other businesspersons, I too am a victim of BRT. This project has destroyed the business activities in Peshawar. Since last year my business has seen a decline of more than 50 percent as customers avoid visiting the University Road due to pollution and road blockades from morning till late night,” Neelam Gigyani, a businesswoman from University Road, told The News.

She said every business including restaurants, clothes, petrol pumps, auto parts, kids’ toys, cosmetics, super stores and others have suffered losses worth millions of rupees. She said the main trade centres on the University Road that used to be jam-packed give a deserted look nowadays.

“The government should complete this project at the earliest and revamp the infrastructure to let the businesses flourish. Besides, owners of every place and business affected by the BRT should be compensated by the government as it has caused heavy losses to everyone,” argued Neelam Gigyani.

“This project has affected 70 to 75 percent of the business in main trade centres of Peshawar. Thousands of shopkeepers and businessmen in the old city, Saddar and University Road suffer heavy losses every month. A large number of those who cannot afford paying rents and other expenses have sold or closed their shops to avoid further losses,” Sharafat Ali Mubarak, the president of the Markazi Tanzeem-e-Tajiran, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa told The News.

He pointed out that not only the shopkeepers on both sides of the BRT have been suffering losses but those in other areas have also been affected badly.

“When during a meeting we took up the issue of our business being affected due to the project, the then chief minister Pervez Khattak assured us that the BRT will be completed in 180 days. I told him to complete it within 270 days. We don’t see any completion even after over a year,” he said.

“Customers avoid visiting the main city and Saddar due to the dust and everyday traffic jams since the launch of the BRT project. We thought the project will be completed within its stipulated time but now everyone of us is getting disappointed due to losses every month,” said Ibrahim Khan, owner of an auto parts shop.

He claimed the shopkeepers in the spare-parts markets in Shoba Bazaar, Saddar and GT Road have suffered losses worth millions of rupees in the last over one year.

“The number of customers coming to us has dropped significantly for many months as people prefer going to Ring Road for dining out due to the dust and road blockade on University Road,” employee of an eatery on the University Road said.

Thousands of people going to schools and offices suffer daily, especially in the morning and afternoon, due to road blockades on GT Road, inner city, Saddar, University Road and all the alternate routes, including the Ring Road. Hundreds of traffic sergeants deployed on these routes have failed to manage the traffic during peak hours.

Like thousands of other people who have been suffering from different diseases due to dust in the provincial capital, traffic sergeants also suffer from chest and throat infections and other pulmonary diseases from the dust all over the city due to construction work on the BRT.

A letter by the senior traffic police officer to the Peshawar Development Authority last month complained that the enthusiasm and performance of the traffic wardens was marred by dust and pollution caused by BRT. The letter termed the pollution extremely injurious.

The letter complained that the dust and pollution have affected the health of over 400 traffic sergeants. The traffic authorities demanded the PDA to arrange for the treatment of the cops whose health was affected due to the BRT.

The traffic sergeants on duty at the busiest squares and trade centres during the peak hours have been struggling to ensure smooth flow of traffic and end the blockade on the narrow alternate routes where vehicles are diverted. The deployment of traffic sergeants at most of these points is insufficient to meet the huge challenge.

A resident said it took his kids several hours to reach home in Gulberg from the Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Women University located in the suburbs of Peshawar on Wednesday. “We got worried and called the driver at around 6 pm. He told me they had left the university at 3:30 pm but are still stuck in traffic,” said Nisar Ahmad.

“For many people in Peshawar, driving a car has become impossible. A large number of people take cab or auto-rickshaw to avoid being stuck in traffic. It’s not easy to reach your destination in the old city including Khyber Bazaar, Qissa Khwani, Dabgari, Lahori Gate, Hashtnagri, Sikandarpura and Gulbahar, especially from 8am to 9pm,” said a motorist, Qazi Irfan.

Chief Minister Mahmud Khan while taking notice of the traffic mess in Peshawar constituted a special committee to tackle the problem.

He was chairing a meeting at the Chief Minister’s Secretariat about the establishment of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Urban Mobility Authority, evolving traffic plan for Peshawar city and early completion of the BRT, said an official handout.

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