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The ‘beauty’ of chaos! Ugly side of road makeover

The government is trying to beautify Calcutta and turning traffic ugly.

Central Avenue in the north and Sarat Bose Road in the south have been bearing the brunt of all-day snarls caused as much by poorly planned beautification schedules as by slipshod traffic management.

The Telegraph had highlighted on Wednesday how Calcutta had become a snail city with the average speed of traffic dropping to 7kmph, thanks to a combination of potholed thoroughfares, signals too many and a shortage of cops on the road.

Metro travels down two busy roads to find out how the government and the civic body’s beautification drive has worsened the woes of commuters caught in snarls.

Multiple pressure points: More than 22 contractors have been engaged to meet the pre-Durga Puja deadline, leaving stretches of Central Avenue and Sarat Bose Road choked with men, machines and construction material. The crossings at Chandni Chowk, Central Metro station, Mahajati Sadan, Jorasanko and Girish Park in the north and Hazra Road, Beltala, Elgin Road and Minto Park in the south have been affected the most by the beautification drive.

“Why did they start working at all the crossings together? They could have finished beautifying certain portions before starting work on another stretch. Isn’t that how projects in high-traffic zones are supposed to be planned? This project seems to have been started with zero planning,” said Santanu Banerjee, a resident of Bonhooghly caught in a snarl while driving to his Park Street workplace.

Mid-road encroachment: Stacks of construction material, mixing machines and workers have blocked around 12 feet of carriageway along much of Chittaranjan Avenue, whose total width is 60 feet. Illegal parking has shrunk the road further, effectively reducing a four-lane road into a two-lane one at most places. The two feet wide concrete median divider that is a part of the beautification plan will eat up more commuter space.

On Sarat Bose Road, whose width is half that of Chittaranjan Avenue, the traffic chaos is worse.“This is torture in the name of beautification. All other cities are trying to expand the width of their roads and we are doing just the opposite. In any case, how can the authorities allow sand and stone chips to be dumped almost in the middle of a thoroughfare?” demanded Rohini Chatterjee, who works for an IT firm in New Town.

Makeover mismanagement: The lack of barriers separating construction material dumped on the road and the main carriageway is an invitation to accidents.

Not only has the indiscriminate dumping of stone chips, sand and iron rods at various places slowed down traffic, motorbikes often skid on the construction material and cars collide while trying to avoid the hurdles.

“A 20-minute ride from Bagbazar to Esplanade now takes close to an hour,” complained Prashant Jaiswal, who owns a garment shop near New Market.

Several stretches of Sarat Bose Road, especially the one from Diocesan School to Minto Park, have been cordoned off not with ropes or metallic boards but with concrete slabs piled on top of one another. These slabs, placed at a gap of about five feet each along the stretch, are a potential hazard for cars at night.

Mess everywhere: The beautification drive along Chittaranjan Avenue and Sarat Bose Road has started affecting traffic on parallel roads like Arabinda Sarani and Bidhan Sarani in the north and SP Mukherjee Road in the south.

“Although Bidhan Sarani and Arabinda Sarani are narrower than Chittaranjan Avenue, I prefer taking these roads nowadays,” said Soumik Bag, a resident of Dakshineswar.

People like Bag opting for a change of route because of snarls along Chittaranjan Avenue has meant the pressure has increased on Bidhan Sarani and Arabinda Sarani.

“This the trouble with road projects implemented in Calcutta. The chaos spreads to other areas in quick time,” said Bag’s colleague Deep Ganguly, who has stopped driving through central Calcutta.

Deputy commissioner (traffic) Dilip Adak said Lalbazar had asked the civic authorities to put up barricades separating the construction sites from the carriageway to minimise the chaos.

P.K.Dua, chief engineer, (civil) in the Calcutta Municipal Corporation, promised to look into the chaos.