KARACHI: Growing traffic indiscipline and lack of professional capacity and training in traffic cops to cope with the issue is the major cause of crippling traffic gridlocks in Karachi, cruelly wasting not only fuel but also their precious time, besides further raising the levels of air and noise pollution in the city.
Rigid road discipline is the first sign of civilized urban societies, while breaking of road rules and chaotic traffic jams indicate towards ignorant and careless citizens, as well as, inefficient and corrupt traffic authorities. Karachi roads, sadly, depict a sorry picture of both civic sense of motorists and pedestrians and level of efficiency of traffic police.
Though almost all city areas and busy roads of Karachi have become a nightmare for motorists due to frequent traffic jams, coupled with daring street crimes including purse and cell phone snatching from the stranded motorists during these gridlocks, the most crowded and congested area of Empress Market Saddar is a classic example of violation of traffic rules and failure of police to bring road discipline in action.
Almost at any time of the day, particularly during peak hours, thousands of vehicles are seen stranded or moving with snail pace in this area, especially the section from Saddar Dawakhan New Preedy Road up to Naveed Clinic near Regal Chowk. Citizens, social organizations and media have repeatedly demanded traffic reengineering of the area to ease persisting traffic chaos and growing noise and air pollution, as well as, ratio of road accidents.
It is observed that in the Preedy-Empress Market area it takes almost an hour to cover the distance of less than a quarter of kilometer, as the whole are is crammed with roadside encroachments. Almost half all footpath space and 40 to 50percent space of road on both flanks is occupied by roadside small shopkeepers and pushcart vendors.
This huge flea markets established on footpaths and roads has made it quite difficult for motorists and pedestrians to move freely in the area. Strangely the police and authorities do not take sustainable actions to remove these illegal encroachments. Citizens complain the police themselves are prompting illegal road occupation, as even Madadggar Police Helpline Chowki in the area is made by placing a container on road.
The New Preedy Street project costing Rs2.6 billion was made with an aim to ease traffic flow in the area. Almost 1,385 houses were knocked down for this mega project. However, like other ill-conceived and ill-managed projects of the city, this ambitious initiative has also failed to meet the purpose.
The first multi-storied parking plaza in Pakistan is also located on this road, but like the New Preedy Street it has also failed to solve the traffic congestion problem. Vehicles coming from all directions use the junction of New Preedy Street and Empress Market area and blatant traffic rules violations including wring flows of traffic is the hallmark of this road junction even when two or three traffic cops are deployed there.
In the whole area bus stops are not properly marked and minibuses pick and drop commuters wherever they like. They minibuses also stop on the junction of Preedy Street and Dr Daudpota Road blocking smooth flow of traffuc. The traffic police could deal with the problem by installing signals, prohibiting illegal parking and blocking wrong road entries. Building overhead pedestrian bridges in the area can also help residents, visitors and shoppers.
Wrong side traffic flow on roads creates huge traffic mess regularly on the Frere Street consuming precious time and fuel of motorists; however, traffic cops posed in the area seem failing to regulate traffic.
The center of the chaos is the opening of Preedy Street at Saddar Dawakhana. Constructed to serve as two-way artery, this road section is wrongly used by traffic coming from three directions.
The traffic coming from the Rainbow Center (Rizvi Shaheed Road) wrongly takes u-turn and enters the wrong flank of the road to go to the side of St Patrick s School. Similarly, the trafficking coming from the St Patrick s School also takes left turn wrongly first and then right u-turn to enter the New Preedy Street to go the Mazar-e-Quaid. These two breaches of traffic rules create huge traffic jams, pestering motorists and pedestrians.
There should be no direct entry of traffic from the Empress Market to the New Preedy Street by creating a U-turn on Rizvi Shaheed Road in front of Fire Brigade station. Similarly, another U-turn should be made in front of the Parking Plaza of New Preedy Street to facilitate the motorists driving from the Rizvi Shaheed Road to St Patrick s School area.
The entry of traffic from the St Patrick s School area towards Empress Market should be banned, or a special U-turn in front of the main Empress Market and Gharyali Building should be made for this traffic intending to go towards the Rizvi Shaheed Road or New Preedy up to Mazar-e-Quaid.
The New Preedy-Empress Market road section must be cleared from all encroachments, bus, minibus and rickshaw-taxi stands. All types of parking must be strictly banned in this area to help regulate the flow of hundreds of thousands of vehicles passing from this area.
If these steps taken along with other traffic re-engineering measures in the area, it would not only help the city administration to ease growing traffic jams, noise and air pollution in Empress Market area, but also improve traffic flow in the surrounding vicinities. This area also needs dozens of pedestrian bridges, zebra crossings and proper traffic signs to make it commuter and pedestrian friendly.
Karachi is considered amongst the biggest urban city centers of the world and it is quite sad that this mega city lacks traffic discipline and order. Karachiites demand remodeling and traffic reengineering of the Saddar-Empress Market area, rightly called the heart of Karachi, on modern traffic management lines to give a civic urban shape.
The citizens, social organizations and consumer rights bodies demands of the Sindh governor, chief minister, minister of local government, commissioner Karachi, administrator Karachi, IGP Sindh and additional DIG Police, DIG traffic and other concerned officers to give a serious attention to this issue and resolve it on urgent basis.