| The road that leads to Khandagiri. Picture by Ashwinee Pati |
Bhubaneswar, Dec. 3: The accident at Khandagiri Square on Sunday, which killed three people, has once again brought to the fore the careless attitude of the authorities in maintaining historical monuments.
Delay in implementing a decision to close the road passing through the Khandagiri and Udayagiri hills is not only affecting the lifespan of the delicate rock-cut caves, but also causing human casualties almost every year.
While the local administration is busy drawing a plan to minimise road mishaps near Khandagiri Square, the decision taken jointly by the state government and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) more than two years ago could have saved many lives if implemented.
While a truck killed two persons last year, a sand-laden tipper killed three and injured 18 on Sunday. Eight people with serious injuries are battling for their lives at various hospitals across the twin cities.
Revenue divisional commissioner Arabinda Padhee told The Telegraph: “More than two years ago, a decision was taken by the state government to close the road passing through the twin hills as the vibration from heavy vehicles was causing threat to the monuments that date back to 1st Century BC. A decision was also taken to demolish illegal structures around the famous Jain monument as many have come up without approval.”
“We should have been more serious about the upkeep of our heritage sites as they are the landmarks describing the cultural links and narrating the evolution of our traditional and unique architectural signature. Strict action should be taken to protect the monuments,’’ Padhee said.
The revenue divisional commissioner asked the Bhubaneswar Development Authority and the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation to take steps to ensure better visibility of the twin hills as the unauthorised buildings have blocked the view of the beautiful caves from a distance. However, nothing has been done so far.
The ASI also has a plan to take up extensive beautification and horticultural work on Khandagiri and Udayagiri so that after the closure of the road in between the hills, only tourists would be allowed to walk through and have a view of both the monuments.
ASI superintending archaeologist of Bhubaneswar circle Bhuvan Vikrama said: “The ball is now on the court of the state government. Our experts have already indicated that movement of heavy vehicles is affecting the lifespan of the monuments. On the other hand, the vehicle that caused the mishap on Sunday was loaded with goods weighing 40 tonnes. A road closure notice should be initiated by the state government at the earliest.’’
“While the decision to close the road passing through the twin-hills of Khandagiri and Udayagiri was an old one, a semi-circular road has already been constructed encircling the hills. But why the state government is not closing down the traffic passing through the twin hills is not known to us,’’ said environmentalist and local resident Surya Narayan Patro.
Conservationist and historian Prafulla Tripathy said: “The road closure notice near Khandagiri and Udayagiri could have helped in saving many lives as the dangerous sloppy road is just a death trap. The state government should take prompt action as this could have a twin effect of keeping the monuments safe and safeguarding lives at the same time.’’
An official of the state government said: “While the ASI is the custodian of the monuments of national importance, the local administration should take proactive step and close down the road. Controlled entry of vehicles will only add to the confusion.’’
HIGHWAY HORROR HITS CITY STRETCH
Sunday night's accident at the Khandagiri traffic square in which a truck ran into several vehicles and killed three people has created uproar among Bhubaneswar residents. The people’s mood was reflected in the Assembly on Monday when several legislators raised the issue on the floor of the House. The police commissioner had also aired his concern and voiced the need for a flyover at the intersection. In the concluding part of its two-series report, The Telegraph looks into various factors that cause frequent accidents at traffic squares located on the National Highway-5 passing through the city
ACHARYA VIHAR SQUARE
The road connecting Nalco Square to AG Square, also known as Sachivalaya Marg, crosses National Highway-5 at this intersection. Many educational institutions, central and state government offices, state secretariat, legislative Assembly, Institute of Physics, Regional College of Education and regional museum are located on both sides of the road. Some private offices and hospitals are located near the square. People of Patia, Chandrasekharpur, Gadhakan, Gajapati Nagar depend on this square to reach the city centre
No. of cops deployed: Two constables, one havildar, a homeguard and two private traffic marshals manage vehicles on a single shift
Condition of traffic light: There are none as flyover construction is on
Condition of streetlight: Though PWD roads have a few light, the traffic square lacks proper illumination
Daily vehicular count: Around 80,000 vehicles negotiate the square everyday
The Problem: Flyover job is creating traffic mess. Temporary underpasses for vehicles, inadequate illumination and shortage of traffic cops add to the chaos. Besides, narrow service roads on both sides make the area accident-prone
TT suggests: More policemen for better traffic management. The square needs proper illumination for drivers to spot cops and follow signals. The service roads should be expanded to ensure smooth flow of vehicles. Auto-rickshaws and buses should not be allowed to pick passengers from the square
The Janpath starts from this square on NH-5 that passes through Ram Mandir Square, Master Canteen Square, Rajmahal Square and Sishu Bhavan Square. Location of Utkal University near the square makes it an important one. Besides people coming from VSS Nagar use this road to reach Janpath. Unlike other traffic squares on the NH, this intersection is T-shaped and makes it a commuters’ nightmare. Busy Saheed Nagar and traffic rush on Janpath make it a pressure zone
No. of cops deployed: Eight policemen and four private traffic marshals manage vehicular flow in two shifts from 6am to 10.30pm
Condition of traffic light: There are none as construction work is on. Vehicles follow hand signals of personnel manning the square.
Condition of streetlights: None on either side of the square
Daily vehicular count: Over 80,000 vehicles cross the square everyday
The Problem: The side of the NH in front of the university has become accident-prone. With no space for expansion of the road, students often become accident victims as they are forced to access the same stretch on their way to university. Speeding vehicles from Acharya Vihar Square put students at risk. Similarly, those coming from the law college side have to access the square from the wrong side. Traffic cops manage vehicles standing under the overbridge, whereas accidents occur at a distance
TT suggests: Expansion of road near university is a must. Encroachments should be removed and fixed lane driving must be encouraged. Besides, speed breakers near the university would help reduce mishaps. More policemen should be deployed at
this square. The area also needs to be properly lit up
This is one of the most important squares in the city as two national highways connect here. National Highway-203 connecting Puri, intersects NH-5 here. Besides, a road from the industrial area of Mancheswar joins at this square. People from VSS Nagar, Mancheswar, Chakeisiani, Rasulgarh, Bomikhal, Palasuni and several newly developed areas depend on this square to access the city. A road from GGP Colony makes it more congested. A truck terminal on one side also poses threat to traffic here
No. of cops deployed: Five traffic personnel and two private traffic marshals manage vehicular flow in two shifts
Condition of traffic lights: None as a flyover is being constructed
Condition of streetlights: None on either sides of the square
Daily vehicular count: Around a lakh vehicles pass through this square daily
The problem: Heavy traffic flow and slow pace of flyover construction cause the chaos. Construction is delayed as encroachments block the NH from both sides by. Besides illegal parking adds to the mess. Movement of heavy vehicles and inadequate lights make the square mishap prone
TT suggests: Diverting Cuttack-bound heavy vehicles through a Mancheswar road is not enough as they hit the NH near the square. The authorities need to remove encroachments fast and finish flyover construction. The NH-203 bypass should be thrown open to public to reduce pressure on the square. Heavy vehicles should be barred in the zone. Action must be taken on auto-rickshaw drivers picking passengers from the square