AMID FERVENT objections by city-based architects, Smart City’s first project — an underpass connecting the Rose Garden and Sector 17 — will be opened to the public in the first week of March. The 70 mt-long and 12 mt-wide underpass has been constructed at a cost of Rs 9 crore, and is part of the rejuvenation plan of the plaza.
A senior official of the UT engineering wing said, “The work is almost complete. We have set a deadline of the first week of March and will stick to it. It will be ready for inauguration by then.” With Lok Sabha elections to be announced any time, the engineering wing has been asked to complete the work as soon as possible, said sources.
The underpass, however, has faced a lot of objections from architects. A study by the Indian Institute of Architects (Punjab chapter) has termed it a “colossal waste of money”, claiming only 133 pedestrians will use it every day.
According to the study, 42,488 vehicles cross the Jan Marg from both directions of the stretch daily, while only 133 pedestrians use it. Around 21,244 vehicles ply Jan Marg during 10 hours of daylight in one direction. These include 603 buses, 1,476 three-wheelers, 10,040 cars, 7,847 two-wheelers and 1,145 bicycle or rickshaws.
Surinder Bahga, former nominated councillor and an architect who was part of the study, said, “We have been pointing out from the very first day that it is not required. There are many other things which the city needs.”
Former Chief Architect Sumit Kaur told Chandigarh Newsline, “Pedestrians are to be respected and given top priority instead of taking them underground. We had raised this issue long back asking why we are taking the pedestrians underground. This underpass is not required. Moreover, there are not many people who cross the area connecting the garden and plaza. We should rather have something for pedestrians on the surface and sent the vehicles underground instead.”
She added, “We are letting cars invade our city. There should be a holistic pedestrian plan for the city.”
Surinder Bahga told Newsline that they had also pointed out that this underpass had “eaten away a lot of green space of the garden”.
Former principal of the Chandigarh College of Architecture, Professor Rajnish Wattas, said that architects had raised objections at a meeting of the Chandigarh Heritage Conservation Committee as well, but officials went ahead to execute it. “It is huge expenditure for limited possible usage. I feel that a demand survey should have been done first. You won’t have any footfall here and a large chunk of the garden has been uprooted for it. It is like an over-scaled expenditure. People who have come to see landscaping…won’t like the noisy hustle and bustle of the plaza…,” he said.