POKHARA:  The traffic island at Prithvichowk of Pokhara has been removed overnight. The road department removed the island on Monday at 11 pm considering the growing problem of traffic jam at the square. Along with the island, statue of Lakhan Thapa has also been taken off from the island.

“A modified statue that fits to the reduced size of the island will be placed on the island very soon,” said Bishworaj Adhikari, chief of Traffic Police, Kaski district. “This is the first island which has been removed, others are in the pipeline. And in the process statues that don’t fit into the reduced size of the island will be replaced with newer ones” he added.

According to Adhikari, all the odd size islands across Pokhara have been marked and will be removed soon. He said that the islands will be removed during night as doing so during daytime affects the traffic on the road.

“At Prithvichowk, the statue was too tall to stay. The road department has been working on a smaller version for the square,” Adhikari said.  After removing the big islands, a very small island where a statue and a traffic police can stand and control the traffic will be built. This, he said, is expected to ease traffic pressure on the road.

“There is a serious problem of traffic jams across the city. Even though we have been working hard to manage it, it’s very challenging in lack of necessary infrastructure,” said Adhikari. “While the numbers of vehicles plying on the roads of the city are growing every day, size and conditions of the road has hardly changed over the years.”

He said that big islands are not practically fit for the roads like that of Pokhara. Huge islands make it very difficult for vehicles to pass and turn, he noted. “The crossroads are very small in comparison to the traffic on road. With big islands covering much of the square’s space, little space is left for vehicles to make their way through the crossroads,” he explained. “So, it was quite necessary to remove it,” he added.  The island of Prithvichowk was 14 meters in diameter. Now, the new one, which is under construction, will have a diameter of 4 meters only. The freed space, Adhikari believed, will make a huge difference in easing traffic jams at the Prithvichowk.

“The crossroad is an important square in Pokhara as it leads roads to Banglung, Syangja, Kathmandu and other parts of the country,” he said. “With the small island in place, we expect to improve vehicular movement at the square.

The small island will also help traffic police officials to better connect with the drivers. We will be able to keep better vigil on the drivers and guide them accordingly.”

Traffic congestion at the Prithvichowk has been a long standing problem. Traffic police says that thousands of vehicles pass through the crossroad every hour. And the number of both the local and other vehicles is growing each day.  “Due to the lack of optional route, traffic congestion at the crossroad is a long standing problem. And if no other options are thought of, there is going to be a serious issue in the long run,” Adhikari said.

“At least around 8000 vehicles pass through this crossroad every hour, just imagine! Those going to Baglung, Syangja or Kathmandu and on top of that the local vehicles, all add up to the congestion,” he said.

“In an hour this road can bear a load of 4,500 vehicles and that means it is presently coping with double load than its capacity,” he explained.

–  By Santosh Subedi for REPUBLICA

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