High Court cracks whip on traffic mess, ‘dismal’ state of pollution

High Court cracks whip on traffic mess, ‘dismal’ state of pollution

Srinagar: The J&K High court on Wednesday ordered the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) to ensure that street vendors do not occupy roads and footpaths. In another directive, the court said that the registration be suspended of public transport vehicles that have insufficient space for passengers.
Hearing a Public Interest Litigation, a division bench of Chief Justice Badar Durrez Ahmed and Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey passed a slew of directions to reduce traffic problems. The court directed the Chief Engineer of Roads and Buildings (R&B) department to be present on June 8 to explain why he had failed to turn up in court despite orders.
The SMC Commissioner, who was present before the court on Wednesday, stated that the drive to remove unauthorised street vendors was going on and 90% of the streets were now free of vendors. The court directed the SMC Commissioner to file a status report along with photographs within two weeks.
On the matter of insufficient space for passengers in public transport vehicles, the Regional Transport Officer Kashmir, who had been summoned by the court, informed that there was a specified standard dimension for passenger space in public transport vehicles. He said a number of vehicles did not have this standard dimension, because of which passengers were facing inconvenience.
The court ordered the RTO to suspend the registration of such vehicles that do not comply with the standard space dimension, till the time the standard is complied with. “This action should be inter alia under Motor Vehicles Act especially Section 5 thereof,” the court said and directed the RTO to submit a status report before June 8.
The court also directed the RTO Kashmir to ensure that the ‘pollution under control’ (PUC) certificate for vehicles older than 15 years is granted only if the pollution parameters are within control.
The court directed the Transport Commissioner to file an affidavit indicating the exact number of vehicles registered in Kashmir that are older than 0-15, 15-20, 20-25 and more than 25 years. “It shall give a break-up of these vehicles in two groups—commercial and non-commercial and further break-up into buses, minibuses, three-wheelers and non-commercial vehicles into cars, two-wheelers and others,” the court said.
The court asked the Transport Commissioner to file an affidavit indicating what has been done with registration certificates of vehicles that are older than 25 years, the age when vehicles are officially condemned.
The Transport Commissioner had been summoned by the court along with the SSP Traffic and SSP Executive, Srinagar, as well as member secretary State Pollution Control Board.
The SSP Traffic told the court that the department had devised a traffic management plan taking in view the current development projects. “We have ordered some diversions,” she said.
The SSP Traffic told the court that a moratorium is needed on the number of vehicles. “Currently we have a traffic footfall of 82 vehicles per minute at a particular point, which ideally should have been 35,” she said. The court asked her to give a power-point presentation on June 8 on ways to manage the traffic in the city.
The court directed Advocate-General Jahangir Iqbal Ganie to examine the possibility, in a phased manner, of switching commercial vehicles to CNG. “As part of the first phase, the government may consider grant of permission of commercial vehicle beyond 15 years on the condition that they will convert from petrol/diesel to CNG/LPG. The counsel for IOC shall indicate as to whether they are in position to establish centres where CNG can be provided in Kashmir, particularly in Srinagar,” the court said.
Regarding the abolishing of unauthorised bus and Sumo taxi stands, the court was informed that a list of authorised Sumo and bus stands has already been notified by the transport commissioner. “It is the responsibility of the Srinagar Municipal Cooperation that there are no Sumo and bus stands that do not find mention in the notified list,” the court said.
The court directed the State Pollution Control Board to file an affidavit indicating the status of equipment available for monitoring air pollution level in Srinagar.
“They shall also indicate requirement of the equipment and the stage at which their proposals are. If there is anything which needs to be done by the Central Pollution Control Board, they shall expedite the same because the position, as we prima facia see, is very dismal in Srinagar,” the court said and directed the SPCB to submit the status report before June 8.
The court pulled up the Beacon and Border Roads Organisation for tardy pace of work and sought report of the date when the 21 projects it was carrying out in Kashmir will be completed. “The double-laning of 86 kilometres of Srinagar-Baramulla-Uri road started in 1996. As per the (BRO’s affidavit) it is likely to be completed in 2017. 86 kilometres in 21 years? Means 4 kilometres in a year. What speed is this? Even a snail moves faster. I don’t understand what is happening. I don’t like this,” the Chief Justice said.

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