Work on Lal Chowk drainage system halted again; traders, commuters aghast

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Work on under-construction drainage system in commercial hub of Lal Chowk has been stopped for past several weeks, putting commuters and local traders to inconvenience.
The Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC), executing agency, had started work on the project, from General Post Office to Court Road in 2017. It is scheduled for completion within 18 months. 
However, despite passing of several months the project is far from completion. “Delay in completion of drainage system is taking a heavy toll on our business,” said Shafiq Ahmad, a salesman at a garment shop at Residence Road.
Another shopkeeper rued government’s failure to macdamise a portion of road from SBI Bank to Regal Cinema on which the work has already been completed.
“This is not for the first time that work has been stopped on the project. In 2017 the construction was halted for two months,” said Regal Chowk Traders Association, general secretary, Farhan Kitab. “Since then the work is being carried out in bits and pieces.”
Under the project the SMC had earlier proposed to construct pumping station at Court Road. However, the proposal didn’t materialise after government announced its plans to declare lower court as heritage structure. Now the pumping station is coming up near Lambert Lane. “Redesigning the drainage system for maintaining slope delayed completion of the project,” said a source. 
The authorities are now planning to dig up a portion of Regal Lane to connect drainage system with the pumping station. However, local shopkeepers fear that digging up of the lane could result in caving-in of the entire lane and hence put structures at risk.
“We have been told the lane will be dug around 15 feet to 21 feet deep,” said Tasavur Wani who owns a structure at Regal Lane.
The traders expressed concern owing to fast approaching winter saying they fear the project would get delayed till next summer. “Development plans are meant to make life of people easier, boost business and ease traffic in congested areas. Ironically, in Srinagar the development works take ages for completion,” said Kitab. He said association had taken up matter with authorities concerned on several occasions. “But our pleas met with deaf ears,” he said. 
The traders demanded early completion of the project and clearing of choked surface drain system. 
City drainage executive engineer, Imtiyaz Qazi, said work on the project will resume “shortly”. “The deadline for the project is December 2018 and we will complete it much earlier,” he said. He said the pumping station near Regal Cinema was “almost complete”.

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