About timeWider roads will mean nothing if it threatens people
The road expansion drive in Kathmandu Valley continues to be a never-ending uphill task. Launched during Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai’s tenure in 2011 to eliminate traffic jams in the valley, seven years later debates continue for and against the road expansion project. Wider roads may lead to progress and development, but it means nothing if it overlooks the safety and the convenience of the road users. one glaring example is the 10 km section of the Chinese aided Ring Road expansion of Kalanki to Koteshwor.
The design of the project, initiated in June 2013, has eight lanes. Four lanes are dedicated to the expressway in the centre and the remaining four lanes -two-lanes on each side of the road are designated service lanes.
According to the design, the main expressway will have four lanes where vehicles can run at the speed of 50km per hour. However, a major designflaw is the lack of median, that should divide the four lane expressway. Road experts opine this flaw would cause fatal accidents.
According to the traffic police, in the past six months, eight deaths have occurred in the eight-lane Kalanki-Koteshwor section. Metropolitan Traffic Range Lalitpur data shows 213 accidents took place on the newly-constructed road, 194 out of which suffered mild to serious injuries. Of the total accidents, more than 70 percent involved two-wheelers. Besides drivers’ negligence, the absence of road dividers, traffic lights and zebra crossings, night lights, parking stations, and inadequate overhead bridges along the roads make the section dangerous, and therefore, prone to accidents.
The Kalanki-Koteshwor section has many intersections such as in Balkhu, Sanepa, Ekantakuna, Satdobato, Gwarko and Balkumari that lead to bigger settlements—the road is essentially meant for the city, but it looks more like an expressway. The Kalanki-Koteshwor section is a long stretch of paved road, bereft of seating areas, ramps, kiosks and vehicular stops.
The road expansion project has significantly contributed to the air pollution too. Apart from harmful and uncontrolled emissions from vehicles, the increasing level of dust in the air caused by unending road-demolition and road construction has inflicted on Nepal having the worst air quality among 180 countries according to a report published earlier in January.
While adopting safety measures for road users is a pressing issue, the authorities pay scant attention to it. Without separate lanes for pedestrians, cyclists, zebra crossings, fast and slow lane markings for vehicles, this is planning a project for disaster. Town planners, municipality, Department of Roads and other authorities tasked with infrastructural development need to seriously rethink and review their plans and methods. Development should not come with collateral damage, especially if lives of the people who call this city their home are at risk. While it is too late to make major alterations to the Kalanki-Koteshwor section, let us hope the government learns lessons from this and does not repeat the same mistake while constructing the Kalanki-Maharajgunj section.