Unplanned development along highways creates chaos in Zirakpur
Growth happened on and along the axis of three national highways on the junction of which lies the small village that struggles with traffic congestionpunjab Updated: Feb 04, 2018 10:02 IST
It’s a gateway to three states, and the junction of three national highways, including NH-21, NH-22 and NH-64. No wonder commuters coming to or passing through the tricity can’t avoid Zirakpur. Yet it’s not an experience they look forward to, for the unplanned ribbon development in the township has reduced all national highways to city circulation roads.
The term ‘ribbon development’ is used for the construction of residential and commercial spaces along a highway.
Unplanned ribbon development
Between 2001 and 2011, the population of Zirkapur increased by nearly four times. Urban landscape too was transformed. Agriculture fields gave way to a town dotted with plotted colonies, marriage palaces, multi-storey apartments, shopping malls, hotels, large office spaces, shops, and mega wholesale stores.
All this growth happened on and along the axis of these three national highways on the junction of which the small village was originally located. “In Zirakpur, ribbon development has taken extreme proportions. Nearly all the housing and commercial growth took place on the three national highways passing through the city. This growth extends from 5 km to 10 km on the highways,” said KL Sachdeva, project director-cum-deputy general manager (DGM), national highway authority of India (NHAI).
Majority of the town’s local traffic from different localities pours onto the national highways. There are no sector roads. All the three streams of traffic, local, inter-tricity and inter-state, converge and merge on the three major intersections, including the Baltana-Dhakoli intersection, T-point under the flyover, and Patiala chowk.
“The traffic in Zirakpur has increased in an unprecedented manner, leading to the choking of intersections. The actual growth in the volume of traffic far surpassed the original traffic estimates for the area. The rapid growth in ribbon development has put tremendous pressure on the national highways,” said Sachdeva.
Traffic, parking and chaos
Dr RS Saini, a daily commuter travelling from Pinjore to Zirakpur, said, “The distance which should normally require 5 minutes to cover, takes 6 to 10 times more than that. It is a daily nightmare. Many bus stands and autos parked on the highways add to the traffic woes.”
A local businessman, Anil Luthra, complained, “It is a big mess for all the people, be it commuters, local residents, and shop owners. No parking is available in the entire area. Shoppers’ cars parked on the road add to traffic chaos.” The shops are right on the road and behind the shops are houses. Mahaveer Aggarwal, president of the beopar mandal, lamented, “There are permanent and temporary encroachments (like rehris) partially blocking the highways.”
Slip roads constructed at some places are used mainly for parking and in some cases end abruptly.
The deeper malaise
The traffic and parking bottlenecks are symptomatic of the deeper malaise in Zirakpur’s ribbon development. “Whatever agriculture land was available between the highways was commercialised. The land size didn’t matter in conversion of agriculture land into commercial spaces. Local politicians and bureaucrats facilitated the unplanned ribbon development in violation of laws like Punjab Periphery Control Act, and exploited the loopholes in the municipal laws and rules,” said Chandigarh-based architect and urban planner Surinder Bahga of the Saakaar Foundation.
In addition to outright illegal constructions (most of which now stand regularised), and constructions in the lal dora areas, there are lots of constructions in which colonisers and builders exploited weak municipal rules.
CLU and building norms: The PUDA Building Rules 2013 are in line with Punjab Apartment and Property Regulation Act, 1995 (PAPRA), which prohibits any realty development of less than 1000 sq m. CLU cannot be granted for an area less than 1000 sq m for the development of a colony. Though PAPRA is also applicable under municipal limits, municipalities like Zirakpur generally employ the municipal rules. These rules don’t mention the minimum area requirements. CLU is granted to any land size. The draft municipal rules 2017 also follow the same pattern. Even in the master plans of Zirakpur and Kharar, minimum area requirements for commercial developments are missing within the municipal limits.
How it works: Owners of agriculture land abutting revenue roads register a plot, say, measuring 50 sq yd, on the basis of jamabandi (land record) in the local sub-registrar office. On this basis, local municipality grants the CLU and approves the commercial plans irrespective of plot size.
Exploiting parking norms: Parking norms on the basis Essential Car Space (ECS) are exploited by builders as they consume more FAR, but still don’t provide stipulated parking as per the approved commercial plans.
Hotels as shops: In another loophole exploited by builders, hotels are shown as shops, as a result of which they don’t follow the building norms. This explains the mushrooming of hotels along the highways in Zirakpur.
Master plan, no action: As per the master plan, service lanes, at least 9 metre wide, are mandatory for properties on national highways. Also stipulated is a 10-metre frontage for such properties. Single-storey commercial facilities are allowed on a 60-foot road with at least 20-metre frontage at least 10 metre from the road for parking purposes. But such norms are seldom followed on the ground.
The state government should speed up the construction of the ring road from the airport road to Panchkula to decongest traffic in Zirakpur. More traffic police should be there to regulate traffic and parking.
Kulwinder Singh Sohi, president, Zirakpur municipal council
Land size didn’t matter in conversion of agriculture land into commercial spaces. Local politicians and bureaucrats facilitated the unplanned ribbon development in violation of Punjab Periphery Control Act.
Surinder Bahga, Chandigarh-based urban planner
The distance which should normally require 5 minutes to cover, takes 6 to 10 times more than that. It is a daily nightmare. Many bus stands and autos parked on the highways add to the traffic woes.
Dr RS Saini, daily commuter from Pinjore to Zirakpur
The traffic in Zirakpur has increased in an unprecedented manner, leading to the choking of intersections. The rapid growth in ribbon development has put tremendous pressure on the national highways.
KL Sachdeva, project director-cum-deputy general manager, NHAI