The benefits of the Bus Rapid Transport System (BRTS) will only be known only after it is completed, but right now it has caused nothing but annoyance and inconvenience to the residents.
Trees, some of which were hundred years’ old, were uprooted to make way for the BRTS, which involves buses running within dedicated corridors in certain parts of the city. So any tree or electric pole or any other obstacle coming in the way of the construction of these corridors had been uprooted or dismantled.
Despite protests from residents and from environmental bodies, the administration continued with its wanton destruction of the green cover of the city. Bulldozers and other heavy machines ploughed through the roads, leading to total chaos.
Perhaps one of the worst affected areas bearing the brunt of the BRTS construction work is the busy stretch between railway station and Guru Nanak Dev University (GNDU).
The dedicated bus corridor on this stretch will pass through the centre of the road unlike in other areas, where the corridors are to be constructed on either side of the roads.
At present, the construction work on this stretch is going on at six spots — outside GNDU, outside Khalsa College, near Ranjit Hospital, near Senior Studies School, near Amardeep Hospital and near Balmiki Chowk. All these spots have been barricaded in a rather haphazard manner.
As the stretch is very busy with high density of traffic, traffic jams are quite common, often causing annoyance to commuters. Barring Putligarh Chowk and near Cantonment Police Station Chowk, there are no traffic cops anywhere else to regulate the traffic flow.
There are a number of schools and colleges on this stretch, including GNDU, Khalsa College (main), Khalsa College for Women, Khalsa Public School and Senior Studies School. During school/college hours, there is total mayhem on the road outside these institutions.
With the centre of the road having been barricaded with aluminium sheets, there is little space on either side of the road for the smooth flow of traffic. The net result is a long line of vehicles outside the entry and exit points on these institutions.
JCB machines and other heavy machinery involved in the construction of the project also cause obstacles.
Laying of sewerage
Had the digging and construction been limited to the BRTS, the residents and shopkeepers of Putligarh and other areas could have borne difficulties, however, to make matters worse for them, the municipal corporation (MC) authorities decided to lay new sewerage and fresh water pipelines in the area.
While the centre of the railway station-GNDU road was dug up for laying the dedicated bus corridor, both sides of this busy stretch was dug up for laying sewer and water pipes. So the space for the movement of vehicles was further decreased on this stretch.
Shopkeepers were cut off from their business centres by large sized ditches that were dug up outside their shops. Likewise residents had to look for alternate routes to reach their homes as the lanes leading to their homes were also dug up for the sewer pipes.
The rains caused further problems as water got accumulated in these ditches and yet to dried up at some places. Walking on foot has also become impossible in mud that was pulled out of ditches and dumped on the sides.
Lovish Gupta, a GNDU student, said “Digging for the BRTS has led to chaos on the roads and accidents take place frequently in the absence of proper service lanes. The lanes on both sides of the dedicated corridor, which is under construction, are narrow as compared to the traffic density.”
Ayush Sharma, a resident, said, “The BRTS has destroyed our environment with a large number of trees having been axed. New trees should be planted once the project is completed. Besides, the streetlights, which were uprooted and thrown the area in darkness at the night, has led to incidents of snatching.”
Vijay Mehra, principal, Senior Studies school, said, “The project may do some good to Amritsar vis-à-vis the traffic, but until and unless people do not start behaving in a responsible manner, nothing can be done about the traffic problems. The project, however, has caused a great loss to the city as a large number of trees were felled. The BRTS project is going to affect shopkeepers as public transport will ply in a barricaded corridor and people will only be allowed to get off at fixed spots. Thus, shopkeepers may lose customers, who normally would have got down from a bus right next to their shop.”
Mayor Bakshi Ram Arora said: “I am aware that the BRTS project has caused a great deal of difficulties to residents. But I want to make things clear that the MC was not consulted when the project was launched. The trees were axed were done without out permission. The streetlight poles and electricity poles that were removed were not done with our permission. In fact this project led to losses amounting to several crores for the MC as lot of our infrastructure was destroyed.”