Admitting that four-laning of Shimla-Parwanoo Road, aimed at cutting travel time between the hill town and Chandigarh, will put Shimla under huge traffic stress, Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur on Thursday said that studies were underway to evolve long-term solutions.
“This is an issue which is bothering us all. Shimla was designed and built by the Britishers for a population of just 25,000. Believe me, the town’s population is about 3 lakh. There is also additional intake of tourists, both during the peak time and otherwise. What should be done? It’s a serious worry indeed,” he said at The Indian Express Idea exchange on Thursday.
The Chief Minister said that some discussions have been held on how to relieve Shimla of the anticipated huge footfall once the construction of NH 22 (Shimla-Parwanoo road) is completed.
Thakur said the town had historic importance aside from being a tourist attraction, and if steps were not taken now, the situation would deteriorate rapidly.
The solution under consideration right now is the creation of additional parking infrastructure, but the challenge would be to find the land for it, he said.
“Now what I have told the officials is to at least identify appropriate small parking sites and start working on the scheme,” he added in reply to a specific question
Another proposal the government was examining was to create parking spots outside the town and stop vehicles going to the town. But, for this, the government would first need an add-on option for providing buses or other facilities to ferry tourists to the town. Ropeway facility is also an option, the CM said.
“The government is alive to the upcoming problem which Shimla is going to face in some time from now, and I have told the officials to come out with all viable solutions and take views of the experts. I hope some solutions will be found,” he added.
Asked about the problem of pollution and environmental degradation on the Shimla-Parwanoo highway, the Chief Minister said: “Some issues like cracks in houses of some people, hill cutting resulting in landslides and blockades on the road causing disruptions in traffic are certainly serious issues. Development can’t be done at the cost of the environment. We need to strike a balance.”
He said the matter has been taken up with the agencies to ensure that no undue loss is caused to the properties of families having houses or other properties along the road.
He was of the view that roads should be designed in such a way that these did not call for damage to the greenery and forests or effort should be made to replant equal or more number of trees where felling is done.