Is it the highway to Murree or unsuspecting road to death?

Sehrish Wasif April 17, 2010

ISLAMABAD: If you wish to travel on the highway linking Islamabad to Murree, you better be careful.

Some go so far as to call it the ‘killer highway’ - there have been many fatal accidents because of the lack of road signs and streetlights. No road signs have been put up to warn travellers about the danger posed by animals that frequently cross on the roads. These include cows, buffaloes, goats, ducks, hens and even camels.

Currently, CDA is funding the development and construction of a number of recreational spots along the highway leading to Murree and Gilgit- Baltistan - also called Murree Road. Rawal Lake Viewpoint is an example.

The CDA has tried to develop it into an attractive tourist spot, which is also helping CDA earn revenue. However, the Murree Road does not even have enough streetlights.

The ones that do exist are mostly out of order. This has caused a number of accidents in recent years. Not only humans but animals have also fallen prey. The road passes through a thickly populated area of Islamabad. People, who live on both sides of the road are in constant danger - quite a few have lost their lives crossing the highway.

Traffic police officials consider over-speeding as the major reason behind these accidents. They have installed speed radars at various spots along the highway in a bid to overcome the problem. This has helped decrease the number of accidents on the highway.

But when asked about the movement of animals, they said it was the responsibility of the CDA to erect fences on both side of the road. Riffat Khan, an ITP official, told The Express Tribune that it is not the duty of the traffic police to run after these animals. “We are here to only deal with the traffic on the road and not cattle around it,” said official.

He even alleged that animals roaming on the highway belong to CDA employees living on either side of the road, especially in Malpur. “This is why no-one dares to capture or cage them,” the official said.

However, residents of Malpur discounted the allegation, claiming that the animals are owned by locals and there is no link to the CDA. When contacted, Member Environment CDA Mazhar Hussain expressed amazement at the free movement of animals on the highway.

He said the department is completely unaware about this matter. “The responsibility lies with other departments, too,” he added. But he promised that staff would be ordered to monitor the situation and take initiatives so that such accidents can be avoided. Ramzan Sajid, the authority’s spokesperson, also claimed ignorance in regard to the nonfunctioning streetlights.

If they are actually not working, the CDA will try to fix them, he said. According to DC Islamabad Amir Ali Ahmad, the traffic police are not responsible but the CDA is. “It’s a serious matter and we will take up the issue with the CDA and departments like the National Highway Authority,” he added. The ICT will ask CDA to submit a report about this issue within 15 days, he said.