As Agra Readies For Civic Polls, Pedestrians Press For A Solution To Road Chaos
Agra, April 12 (TNA) When candidates of different political parties come to ask for votes for the municipal elections on May 4, they are sure to face a battery of uncomfortable questions on road safety and the threats to life not only from machines but also from the exploding simian, bovine and canine populations in the urban areas.
In recent years as the population of humans and motor vehicles on the roads has shown an upward trend, life has become insecure and unsafe for the pedestrians and cyclists in Agra. Pedestrians are victims not only of vehicles but are also almost daily attacked by simians, canines and bovine population that follow no civic rules.
“The city faces an acute problem of parking space, compounded by encroachments of roads and pollution due to heavy emissions,” according to senior citizens who keep flooding the social media platforms with complaints.
You can only expect chaos when town planners design roads for vehicles and not human beings when traffic plans become sacrosanct and mobility plans are thrown to the winds, comments green activist Mukta Gupta.
The grim reality is that the city of the Taj Mahal and half a dozen other historical monuments, that annually attract millions of visitors, can no longer cope with the exploding human and automobile population, plus of course the marauding monkeys, the stray dogs, and the wayward stray cattle on the roads. The official town planners and the ruling party politicians who look for answers to sort out the great urban predicament are at their wits’ ends and groping in the dark for answers to these baffling issues.
Half a dozen departments, the Taj Trapezium Zone Authority, the Agra Development Authority, the Agra Municipal Corporation, the district board, the local police, and the huge army of bureaucrats, are all at loggerheads, pulling one another in different directions. “That is why the chaos on the roads. The city does not yet have a comprehensive long-term mobility plan for human beings. Vehicles are registered without verifying whether the owners have garages or not. Little wonder you find vehicles parked all over the city along roads, restricting mobility,” says environmentalist Devashish Bhattacharya.
Agra’s population has crossed five million. Keeping pace is the phenomenal increase in the number of vehicles on the roads. In addition to more than two million registered vehicles, Agra also sees thousands of vehicles from other states using the two Expressways and several national highways crisscrossing the city. “After the Yamuna Expressway and the Agra Lucknow Expressway became operational, the pressure on Agra roads has gone up many times. The situation is truly alarming,” says Rajiv Gupta, former president of the National Chamber of Industries and Commerce.
To add to the woes of the locals, the exploding simian, bovine, and canine populations are major concern areas that the city planners need to address urgently. The alarming rise in the number of private vehicles has hastened the collapse of the traffic management system if ever there was one. Long traffic jams, angry commuters, increased street fights, and accidents are the daily features of the traffic scenario in the Taj City. Can anything be done to save the city from degenerating into a civilisational sink?
Local citizens’ forums and voluntary organisations say that the first major step should be to recognise and respect the rights of pedestrians and humble cyclists who should always get a favoured treatment on the roads. The second is to plan mobility management and not traffic management. Humans have to be the chief focus of urban planning, not vehicles and accommodation, the activists demand.
The use of private vehicles has increased in the eco-sensitive Taj Trapezium Zone, spread over 10,400 sq km, reflecting the general level of economic growth in the region. Private vehicle usage share in Agra of total motorised transport is relatively higher compared to metro cities.
As the city goes to polls for the local body on May 4, the candidates are under pressure to answer mobility-related questions and the issue of road safety. The political parties obviously have done no homework on this.