Flood of vehicles sinks Haridwar in traffic woes
The pilgrimage city becomes choc-a-bloc with vehicles on festive days -- Somwati Amawasya, Makar Sakranti and Baisakhi. But the city has only one authorised parking lot -- Pt Deen Dayal Upadhyay two-level parking -- opposite Har-ki-Pauri and adjacent to Haridwar-Dehradun NH-58dehradun Updated: Sep 03, 2017 20:14 IST
During the 1954 Maha Kumbh in Haridwar, a few pilgrims used vehicles to reach Har-ki-Pauri; most of them walked up to the Ganga ghat -- considered the most sacred -- for a dip, remembered a 76-year-old local trader.
“A stark contrast was visible in the Ardh Kumbh-2016 when a majority of pilgrims preferred to visit the town only on vehicles,” said Ashwini Ohri, a Sandesh Nagar resident who has seen all the kumbhs since 1954.
“By next kumbh in 2021, traffic congestion and parking problem will be main hindrance to smooth conduct of the mega fair.”
The pilgrimage city becomes choc-a-bloc with vehicles on festive days -- Somwati Amawasya, Makar Sakranti and Baisakhi. But the city has only one authorised parking lot -- Pt Deen Dayal Upadhyay two-level parking -- opposite Har-ki-Pauri and adjacent to Haridwar-Dehradun NH-58.
About 850-900 vehicles can be accommodated in the parking lot; double the vehicles are parked on adjacent roads and inner stretches in and around Har-ki-Pauri leading to traffic congestion.
The number of vehicles registered in Haridwar is about 4.38 lakh, according to traffic department data. But 1.63 crore pilgrims and about 20 lakh vehicles entered the city during the April 13-14 Kumbh Shahi Snaan.
Bhoopatwala, Neel Dhara and Khadkhadi areas, where ashrams and temples have been built, and main markets, such as Jhanvi Market, Moti Bazaar and Upper Road Bazaar, witness traffic jams daily.
Mayor Manoj Garg, who had claimed to solve parking woes when he was elected in 2013, blamed the previous Congress government for not clearing proposals for parking lots.
“We have earmarked some open space to be developed as parking lots and met urban development minister Madan Kaushik. By the end of my tenure next year, a couple of parking lots will surely come up,” Garg said.
District magistrate Deepak Rawat, who was instrumental in easing parking woes in Nainital, said he has directed Haridwar-Roorkee Development Authority (HRDA) to develop new parking lots.
Temporary parking lots
During Maha Kumbh, Ardh Kumbh and Kanwar fair, temporary parking lots are made outside the city.
Vehicles coming from Dehradun are stopped at Motichur and Pantdeep, and those from Roorkee at BHEL and Bairagi camp; pilgrims and tourists then walk five to eight kilometres to reach Har-ki-Pauri.
“Since 2013 Kanwar fair, we have converted Bairagi camp Kumbh land into a parking lot, where about 40,000 four-wheelers are kept. We can’t use it throughout the year as it’s a prohibited Kumbh mela land,” said Kiran Lal Shah, former police in-charge for Kanwar Mela.
“We need to have at least half a dozen parking lots, otherwise traffic movement will get choked during major festivals.”
Bus station as parking lot
“HRDA is planning to develop the current bus stand into a multi-level parking lot, which can sustain pressure of pilgrim-tourist vehicles. As this place is less than 2km from Har-ki-Pauri, a majority of visitors will avail of this parking lot,” said HRDA secretary Bansidhar Tiwari.
Local traders oppose the HRDA proposal to shift the bus station to suburban Jwalapur. Traders’ association president Suresh Gulati said, “Business will be affected if a parking lot can be created at the current bus station.”
Inadequate drainage and encroachments on drains cause water-logging in colonies and inner stretches during rainy days. For this reason, hoteliers and commercial complex owners are not keen on underground basement parking.
“This monsoon water entered our basement parking thrice. Hotels and plazas, which have gone for underground parking, are suffering due to water-logging” said Ramyash Singh, owner of a shopping plaza at Ranipur.
Integrated Industrial Estate of SIDCUL, 14km from the city, where trucks ferry commercial goods round the clock, doesn’t have a parking lot.
Trucks are parked outside factory gates or on roads, which led to many accidents. DM Deepak Rawat directed officials to cancel the licence of such truck drivers.
“Companies will hesitate to invest or set up plants in Haridwar unless the parking problem is addressed. Legal parking lots provide space, security and round-the-clock monitoring, which is imperative for ferrying of commercial goods” said Sudhir Mehta, general secretary of SIDCUL Industrial Association.
MP raises issue
Haridwar MP Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank said rise in population and vehicular pressure has led to traffic jams. “In this regard, I had met former urban development minister M Venkaiah Naidu before he became vice-president. Expanding parking facilities and developing planned open spaces on NH-inner roads were discussed. The ministry assured of decongesting the pilgrim city by 2021,” said Nishank.
Paid parking lots
City superintendent of police Mamta Vohra said paid parking lots can be developed, like the one at Rodi Belwala ground during Kanwar fair. “We have started marking no-parking zones and illegally parked vehicles are being towed away,” said Vohra.
With Metro rail link project underway to connect Haridwar-Rishikesh with Dehradun, traffic pressure on roads will be less as people will prefer metro ride to commuting on vehicles.
“There is less scope for developing alternative highways and service roads in Haridwar, situated on both sides of the Ganga and covered by a mountainous terrain,” said Satpal Brahmachari, a former municipal chairman who convinced ex-CM Harish Rawat to opt for a metro project.
“It’s time to provide metro service and luxury intercity buses to people; this will lessen traffic congestion, though parking lots need to be developed,” he said.