Traffic jams hampering campaign against pollution

EPD inspectors say wardens’ priority is traffic management not fining.


Sonia Malik November 13, 2012

LAHORE:


The campaign against unfit vehicles has been hampered by an increase in traffic jams at major road junctions, Environment Protection Department (EPD) officials told The Express Tribune.


The EPD inspectors, traffic wardens and transport department officials had started a joint campaign against unfit vehicles in May. However, the campaign had slowed down by the end of October with traffic wardens struggling to manage traffic congestion during rush hours.

Traffic Warden Muhammad Jamil, who is in charge of managing traffic in front of Barkat Market twice a week, told The Express Tribune that when EPD and Transport department officers starting stopping and fining vehicles emitting noise and smoke, it hampers his job of managing the traffic.

He said that while alternate routes have been advertised on account of Multan Road widening and the BRTS project construction projects, traffic remains unmanageable as the number of vehicles exceeds the road space capacity.

He said the worst locations in this regard were Shalamar Link Road, Kalma Chowk and Ichhra junctions along the Ferozepur Road from 8am to 10.30am in the morning and from 1.30pm to 3.30pm.

As many as 4,400 vehicles have been fined so far under the Motor Vehicle Ordinance Sections 163 and155 dealing with smoke-emitting and noisy vehicles. However, progress has slowed with wardens unwilling to prioritise the campaign over traffic management.

Younas Zahid, the deputy district officer (environment), said Transport Department officers did not show up on some days and the EPD inspectors had to test the vehicles by themselves. “If a traffic warden can a motorcyclist not wearing a helmet or a car running a red light, then why can he not stop cars emitting dangerous levels of soot or blowing pressure horns (which produces noise lelels exceeding the permissible 85db limit). How difficult can it be?,” he said.

He dismissed wardens’ claim of ‘unmanageable’ traffic.

Ali Raza, who tests vehicles for pollution five times a week, said, “We avoid traffic jams by testing vehicles from 9am to 1pm.” He said it has difficult to deal with people who are stuck in traffic. “People end up fighting and abusing wardens if stopped in a traffic jam. They also get angry if a warden stops a vehicle with an unfit engine,” he said.

Two-stroke rickshaw owners often plead poverty and high-fuel prices, Raza said.

While the EPD officials are required to provide technical assistance, it is traffic wardens who are authorised to issue fine tickets to the owners of polluting vehicles. Of the 4,400 vehicles stopped and fined in the last six months, the numbers of motorcycles alone is 2,894. As many as 503 two-stroke rickshaws, 27 jeeps and cars, 406 trucks, 224 mini-buses, 132 pickup vans and 93 buses had also been fined, by the end of October.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 14th, 2012.

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