Ward Watch: Lack of Parking Space- a major problem for Athgaon residents
GUWAHATI: Normal life has been paralysed on a stretch of about 500 meters of the BR Phukon Road in Athgaon of Guwahati’s Municipal Ward No 8 - one of the commercial hubs of the city. The road has otherwise remained rundown for the past few years.
Located in the heart of the city, the dilapidated stretch of the road from Kumarpara Panchali (where five roads meet) to Railway Gate No 7, however short as it may be, poses a major threat to commuting commercial vehicles that are often loaded with goods.
“It is one of the commercial hubs of the city. Most of the shops around are wholesalers and thus, purchase goods in bulk. The majority of the vehicles that commute carry goods and due to the uneven roads, we have a constant fear of these vehicles toppling over,” Arun Baweja, a shop owner here, said.
Another businessman, Pratap Pareekh, said, “Due to the bad condition, we mostly opt for hand-pulled carts; as for the other vehicles, it is almost impossible for these to commute. This hampers our business badly.”
Athgaon, that connects Paltan Bazar to its east with Bharalumukh to its west, has converted into one of the major commercial areas of the city over the years along with Fancy Bazar. BR Phukon Road eventually exits to the MG Road near the Tarun Ram Phookan Park at Bharalumukh.
To add to the commuter’s woes, the already dilapidated road has, of late, converted into a dumping ground for garbage; with the faulty drainage garbage spills over onto the streets every monsoon.
"This particular stretch of road has been in a dilapidated state for a long time now. The road is broken, the drainage isn't proper and water gets accumulated after rain. Often, after rain, garbage from the drain spills onto the roads. It stinks horribly and one cannot really make out if the garbage has been thrown by the people around or has come out from the drains. But we have to commute through that every day,” Niraj Jain, a resident of Athgaon, who takes this road to commute to office daily, said.
Recently, the authorities have taken up reconstruction work of the stretch but the shabby execution has only added to the misery of the residents.
Further, with the railway crossing located here, the problems are even more heightened since it constantly causes traffic jams.
“The government has started working on this road after turning a blind eye to our woes. And they chose the monsoon season to start work and that too, on the entire stretch of the road at the same time. Now, half the road is covered with heaps of cement on the other side, and since there is a railway crossing located here, we have to face traffic jams that last for more than 15-20 minutes and with it, a harrowing driving experience,” Jain added.
When asked, Amit Jain, area Sabha member of 8B, said, “People will have to be a little patient. The road was in this condition for such a long period of time. Finally, it has started taking shape. It will be solved soon.”
He further added, “Repairing this road was not under GMC's mandate; it is the responsibility of the Public Works Department. We had informed the department about a year ago. Finally, it got sanctioned and is being undertaken.”
Lack of parking space - the throbbing raw nerve of Athgaon
This 500 metre stretch of rundown road is not the only blotch on a ward that is otherwise well taken care of.
Residents expressed that they have trouble commuting on a daily basis due to lack of parking spaces and massive traffic congestions.
In a survey conducted by G Plus earlier, the residents had expressed satisfaction regarding almost all the living parameters such as potable water, cleanliness, regular supply of electricity etc. The above mentioned two parameters were the only exceptions.
The problems here are two-pronged – slack in the government functioning and disproportionate growth of the area.
Back in 1960s-70s, when Fancy Bazar mostly housed the grocery and clothes markets, Athgaon, being the connecting road to lower Assam from Paltan Bazar railway station, had developed in to a commercial joint catering to motor parts related requirements of the vehicles travelling through the area. This area also served as the most suitable residential area for the traders and as an area for having godowns, Fancy Bazar being already crowded.
The pace of infrastructural development, however, could not match the area’s commercial development and by the mid 1990’s, it started getting over-crowded. The situation went from bad to worse over the subsequent years.
“We have been parking our vehicles on the road over the last few decades. This is mostly because most of the houses here are old and don’t have parking spaces. And now, so many shops and houses have been established here that there are hardly any parking spaces. People have to park their vehicles as far as Paltan Bazar and Machkhowa to reach here,” Shubham Sharma, a resident said.
Regarding the government’s lag, the residents pointed out the delay in the multi-level parking lot project that the old jail in Fancy Bazar was supposed to be converted into.
“Had that project been completed, our parking problem would have been solved,” another resident, Vijay Soni, said.
The infrastructural constraints are not just confined to parking problems, but are reflected in the regular traffic congestions too.
“Right from 9 am to 9 pm, there is constant traffic congestion here. People come from all over the city here and park their vehicles haphazardly. Moreover, the road exits to a railway gate which often remains closed due to train traffic. This compounds the problem with the roads being already narrow,” Vijay Todi, a resident said.
Another resident, Vishal Jain said, “This place has developed exponentially, but the roads still remain narrow. Traffic jams are inevitable.”
Sunita Bhilwaria, the councillor of Ward No 8, in tandem with the residents, said that delayed projects and unplanned expansion has made the place very congested.
“I had been urging the Guwahati Metropolitan Development Authority to complete the parking lot work for a long time now. But there are a few very genuine reasons why this project has been delayed. Once the project gets completed, we can finally have a holistic solution to the problem,” Bhilwaria said.
Regarding traffic too she was of the opinion that it’s related to the parking problem.
“Once we have a solution to the parking problem, we will urge the government to turn this area into a no parking zone. Now, more than often due to faulty or double parking, the roads have become narrower which leads to traffic congestion. Once that is solved, smoother commutation will be possible,” Bhilwaria added.