Shoppers steer clear of ‘dug-up’ Rawalpindi’s Saddar

Published March 24, 2024
Plastic pipes lie along Peshawar Road as the underground cable project moves at a snail’s pace. — Photo by Mohammad Asim
Plastic pipes lie along Peshawar Road as the underground cable project moves at a snail’s pace. — Photo by Mohammad Asim

RAWALPINDI: Shoppers are reluctant to visit Rawalpindi’s main commercial hub in Saddar due to the poor state of roads in the area which were dug up to lay underground electricity cables to turn the shopping hub into a clean neighbourhood.

The project started in January and was supposed to take three months to finish, but due to its sluggish pace and careless planning, traders and shoppers face many problems daily, particularly ahead of Eid – a peak shopping period. Likewise, the main roads which connect Saddar to other parts of the city pose dangers to citizens due to potholes and trenches on these roads.

The piles of dirt along the roads also cause damage to the vehicles and create dust for pedestrians, who find it difficult to pass through these roads.

About “six feet deep and four feet wide trenches” had been dug up along The Mall and other roads at the start of the project and still not properly filled.

Traders, visitors complain about sluggish pace of underground cables project

A visitor to Saddar said the authorities should execute the project phase-wise instead of digging up the entire area for the project. Muhammad Ahsan, a resident of Asghar Mall Scheme, said that the visitors were facing numerous problems due to dug-up roads for the last three months. For him to venture out has become a risky affair.

Abdul Rashid, another visitor, said, “It is impossible for us to cross the road from Haider Road to Canning Road; on rainy days, we avoid Saddar”. Just like the visitors, traders are also in a state of fix.

“It has become difficult for us to earn money as few customers have visited the place even during Ramazan,” said Nasir Ahmed, a cloth dealer on Bank Road. Zafar Qadri, Cantonment Traders Association General Secretary, concurred. He said that the slow pace of work created problems for the shopkeepers on Kashmir Road, Haider Road, and Bank Road.

“The RCB made a promise to finish the work 10 days ago but no progress has been made in this regard. The contractors are responsible for the sluggish pace,” he said, adding that the work could have been completed within a week had they properly handled it. “We also wrote a letter to the RCB to highlight the issue,” said Mr Qadri, a member of the coordination committee comprising traders and the cantonment officials.

It may be noted that the roads in Saddar were dug up to carry out the Rs850 million project to install electricity cables underground. The Rawalpindi Cantonment Board provided Rs760 million to Iesco and Rs90 million was allocated for civil works. Under the first phase of the project started in Jan this year, the cables will be laid underground on The Mall, Service Road, Kashmir Road, Canning Road, Bank Road, Adamjee Road, and Haider Road.

When contacted by Dawn, RCB Cantonment Executive Officer Syed Ali Irfan termed the underground cables project “very important”. He said that the work was not underway at a slow speed but “we are working as per schedule”. He said the entire project – civil works – would be completed in nine months i.e. October.

After the digging, Iesco would lay cables as soon as possible, he said, adding that the authority was aware of the problems being faced by the people. He said it was necessary to make Saddar and other areas clean.

Published in Dawn, March 24th, 2024

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