ZT Development Team

Jammu & Kashmir’s State Administrative Council (SAC) on June 10 gave its approval for the ‘Elevated Corridor Option’ for Srinagar Mass Rapid Transit Corridor. Coming up at an expected cost of Rs 20,000 crore, the project is billed to address Srinagar’s transportation needs. However, there are several issues that need a broader public debate before final approval is given to the project:

Ziraat Times’ development team analyzes some of the critical issues related to the project and engaged with subject experts on questions of financial viability, technical expertise, project management capacity and the inherent operational limitations of the state administrative systems. 

Here is what Kashmir’s business leaders, politicians and thought leaders have to say:

Mushtaq Ahmad Chaya
Chairman, PHDCCI Kashmir Chapter

Before going for the Metro project, let’s just get back to flyover that’s almost in its completion. When we look at it,  in the surroundings of the flyover, there are residential properties. The areas through which flyover goes through, there should be a proper compensatory model and  I believe there should be road widening so that it really becomes beneficial to the people. Metro seems like a dream.

There should be proper shape to the existing system. We acknowledge what they have come up with, but there needs to be perfection in terms of the final look. This metro project they say for 4 years, is in no way going to be complete in the exact 4 years.

We don’t have the capacity to repay the loans. Basic facilities should be prioritized and Metro can be the latter option. I call this city, City of cars. There are jams every now and then, why cannot they just manage the current scenario first. ERA will take millions of years to plan for such a project. More emphasis should be on the creation of employment and road widening.

sheikh ashiq
Sheikh Ashiq
President, KCC&I

We always welcome the projects related to a metropolitan or smart city. We are not against development in the state. However, it’s all subject to implementation and timely completion of the project.

World over, wherever developmental projects are undertaken, people welcome them wholeheartedly but we have apprehensions here. We will sit with the honorable chief secretary in the coming days. We are hopeful that the smooth execution of this metro project will be followed and there will be  SOP’s so that we won’t have to face the same lapses that we have suffered before.

Let’s welcome these projects but subject to time and implementation.
When certain facilities or services are provided to the people as planned and promised, there will be revenue generation for sure. We recently witnessed the toll tax at the highway. People came on roads because the highway is still not complete. Announcement of such projects is towards development and progress.

Well, ERA has been doing projects in Kashmir. Higher up’s in the state government need to sit on it  Any developmental work undertaken so far. every stakeholder has a role in it. For Srinagar metro project, there hasn’t been a single meeting so far, wherein all the stakeholders will be on the same table and present their opinions.

Faiz Bakshi
Faiz Bakshi
Convenor, Environmental Policy Group

Economically, it’s a very expensive project and we also have to care for our environment. It should not be in any way detrimental to our environment. There has been for sure a long and huge disruption due to Rambagh Flyover and the business houses impacted have suffered a lot.

There happened to be traffic disruptions as well. Even though they claim it to complete in 4 years however it doesn’t look like it will. They will get 2 years out of 4 as a working season. They need to come out factually what they want to do and how they are going to bear the cost.

I don’t think there will be any revenue generation from this project. There are projects of land acquisitions, road widening and some more pending since last 20 years and I  don’t understand how they are going to manage this when they are not able to remove the previous bottlenecks. We have basic issues with drainage and sewage, they are not able to do that. The rapid transport system is meant for places which have a lot of landed area, construction-free areas. We have already a shortage of land. I think they need to revisit this project and consider and take some lessons from the flyovers and road widening projects which have not been 50% complete even after 20 years.

There has not been even a single project to name which they might have delivered on time. They take much time to complete the projects that have already turned as a failure. If they are enough serious for the metro project. International tenders should be invited.

Talking about alternatives, road widening and traffic management should be followed. All we lack is traffic sense and traffic management. These two things are to be taken care of.

GN Qasba
Former Commissioner
Srinagar Municipal Corporation

For any infrastructure developmental project, we need to check whether we really have an appetite/need, to absorb such huge projects, keeping in view our economy, geographic conditions, tourism and fragile environment.

The long gestation time such projects take in fruition and disruptions that that would result in, we have to seriously account for, and perhaps we can not afford it around this point of time.  First of all “Policy frame “ work and compensation for the land acquisition have to be made up to date, complementary to the norms in vogue at the national level.

For the improvement in road connectivity, the ongoing projects Like, the “ring roads “ flyovers have to be got completed first and a “ visionary road map “ for the accelerated / matching economic activity, which otherwise is highly bruised. For such projects, there has to be a specific dispensation of funds from the center ( or any donor agency) to state, and there should no additional burden on the state exchequer and the repayments of the loans raised, should have a built-in mechanism for repayment. We are already aware of the fiscal health of our state and the maintenance of present infrastructure especially the roads and buildings is far from satisfactory.

The is a need for a technologically advanced sewerage and drainage network in the city as a first priority ( over having metro), as presently raw sewerage flows into the Jhelum and River tributaries in the entire Kashmir valley and the network of STP,s is very scarce around Dal lake , has to be made more dense. Solid Waste Management has to be put into the decentralized mode.

In order to improve mobility, we may seriously work on mass transit systems, water transportation of passengers/goods, use double duckers ( buses ), etc. Traffic regulations in the form intelligent traffic lights, strict enforcement of laws, and widening of roads as the top priority, need a far lesser amount of funds, etc, would go a long way in managing mobility and Liveability in this historic and heritage city of Srinagar.

Prof. Hameedah Nayeem
Academician and Activist

This place is already squeezed. Flyovers have already disrupted a lot. They should have started with 4 lanes, road widening. When we look at those flyovers, they are standing like monsters in such less space.

I think metro will be add on congestion to the already squeezed area. There are other aspects of life which need more investment and I don’t see there is even such need for the metro in Srinagar. I don’t understand what is motivating them to do such a big project which is not basically a public cry.

Whenever there is any developmental work to be undertaken, the public has to be the participant as an essential stakeholder. We have already suffered from this flyover project and these 6-8 years have been very tough even to commuters.  I don’t think there will be any revenue generation and it’s going to be a drain on the public.

The flyover is the live example of the work done by ERA and if the same is to be done anywhere around the country, prior to deadlines projects are finished.

Junaid Azim Matto
Mayor, Srinagar

As a resident of Srinagar who has been living for long in the old part of the city and after I saw the initial drawings, I believe that any solution that can prove good for Delhi cannot necessarily prove good for Srinagar.

The administration is taking care of how funds are to be arranged or any other details about financial feasibility analysis and I’m not privy to that. It’s an ideal city and is evolving.

Waheed Ur Rehman
Leader PDP

Srinagar traffic is completely messed up and there seems a need for the metro in order to cover that. There will be disruption in the beginning but it is to be done. It took a lot of years for highway, flyovers likewise.
No doubt it takes time but there is a change as well. It takes 25 minutes to reach Anantnag now via a highway or for that matter Pulwama, Baramulla. This is part of it and cannot be avoided.

Srinagar is a messy place with a b good inflow of tourists as well. People will certainly prefer public transport and I think there will be enough revenue generation and seems it can be managed. 

No doubt it takes time for such projects and in Kashmir due to seasonal changes, takes more time. The government can do things on a fast track basis. There can be a cable car if we talk about having an alternative for metro. Since Srinagar witnesses a good number of tourists, a cable car can be an option.  It can be a point of attraction also and will solve the issue of traffic as well.

Ashfaq Sidiq Dug
Ashfaq Dug
President, Travel Agents Association of Kashmir

The project cost is huge and it’s going to be a huge burden on the state exchequer. Once the project is initiated, how are they going to recover this money? There can be two options now, whether there will be an underground metro or elevated. If it’s underground, there will be challenges because of the landscapes and in case it’s going to be elevated, it will be no different then Rambagh flyover.

It’s still not making the deadline and then the business community suffering because of these projects. Metro can be to any extent be need of the hour but there are other options as well. The best would be to have TROM.

Every citizen of the state would love to have the state at par with other parts of the country with all the modern facilities and technologies. Cities are recognized because of smooth transport and connectivity. One silver lining is, if Mr. Sri Dhar is kept in charge of metro in Srinagar,  I’m optimistic for the whole project then. There has been smooth implementation and every deadline was met in whatever phases it was planned. Also, if it is prepared as a BOT, then I don’t see it as a challenge. That’s how it worked in Delhi.

If we see the topography of our state especially Kashmir, there is an inflow of persons from South, North. Srinagar located in the central part has the major bottleneck during peak hours. After the peak hours are done, we also see the smooth flow of traffic. Cost wise, there won’t be usage by masses to that numbers. The kind of population in Delhi or Bangalore who commute by metro is huge. When it comes to project given to ERA, I have doubts.

We have bureaucracy hassle. A person heading a particular project, once the new government takes over, out of blue the in charge guy will be transferred. Now the project will be given to the person who doesn’t even qualify for it.

Raja Muzaffar Bhat
RTI Activist

If this is a grant then no issues but if it is a World Bank or Asian Development Bank loan then it might create problems for J&K State. We have a very bad experience of Jehangir Chowk – Rambagh Flyover, but if the project is handed over to some reputed company then maybe it might not lead to much disruption but provided the Metro line is laid underground (tube). This would save our limited land plus the disruption of traffic can be minimized.

Delhi Metro is a profit-making good business, but that is because of the huge population, I don’t think it would generate much profit in Kashmir. We have to see which all places Metro will pass through, that is important and this needs several rounds of discussions and debates with all stakeholders. The route of metro must not be thrust on people.  J&K’s government administrative systems have inherent limitations related to financial planning and management, funds release from the center, timely spending, contract management, inadequate worker availability and so on.
Better alternatives can be road widening, shifting of many congested locations like Rambagh, Solina, Lal Chowk, underground roadways, tunnels and construction of Srinagar Ring Road at an earliest.

Land acquisition will be an issue. Before land for Metroline is acquired, Govt must come with a new and robust land acquisition act which is at par with Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act (RFCTLARR 2013) (central law) which is not applicable in J&K. Under central law affected people to get 2 times more compensation than market land in urban areas and 4 times more in rural areas. Kashmir being a land deficient state  can’t afford to have an arbitrary land acquisition law, plus metro line should be constructed under the ground at most of the places.