By Ali Hassan
ISLAMABAD: The parking crisis has taken a serious turn as the city has registered a marked increase in the number of Eid shoppers storming every market of the federal capital in search of cheap items, especially clothes for children. The problem got further impetus from an ever-increasing number of cars coming on the road this year, especially before Eidul Fitr, Daily Times has learnt.
Meanwhile, the shoppers have blamed the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) administration for the inadequate parking space in most of the city’s shopping malls. On the other hand, the shop owners are also not happy with the situation because the number of customers they expect close to Eid are not frequenting their shops due to scarcity of parking lots near their business centres.
Daily Times has learnt that parking lots adjacent to major shopping centres and shopping malls, including Karachi Company, Super F6, Kohsar Market, Jinnah Super, Aabpara Market, Melody Market, G11 Markaz, I10 and G10 Markaz, have become so choked that every day there are brawls between motorists over parking of vehicles. The situation is aggravating as Eid is around the corner.
An ICT official talking to this scribe on Saturday said that the administration had conducted a survey in the past regarding the parking problem in the federal capital and it revealed that the base of the problem lied in the chaotic growth of multi-storeyed shopping malls and an equally maddening increase in the number of four-wheelers in the city. The problem was duly assisted by the fact that there was no proper thinking for the parking issue. A report was also compiled in the light of that survey. According to the survey report, the ICT official said over 350,000 vehicles make their entry and exit from the Zero Point Interchange (Islamabad Expressway that adjoins the twin cities). He maintained that in view of the survey report, the ICT administration with the help of Capital Development Authority (CDA) defined a strategy to tackle the parking issue in 2009. “Sadly, the implementation stage never came,” the official said.
“A modern city must have around 30 percent traffic infrastructure. In Islamabad, it is only around eight to nine percent. However, some 40 percent of this insufficient structure is encroached upon by the shop owners who place the building material on the encroached land with the help of the authorities concerned,” the official maintained. The shoppers while doing shopping at the Aabpara and Melody markets told Daily Times that those areas were the most disorderly maintained shopping areas of the city, especially in days in the run up to Eid.
“On the eve of Eid, the situation turns into a nightmare for us. As Ramazan is ending and Eid approaching, everyone is rushing towards shopping malls. We are struggling to enforce traffic rules,” said Amjad Abbasi, a shopper and joint secretary of Trade Union Association at Aabpara Market. “In majority of the city’s malls, street is the only parking option for the car owners. In other malls, parking space is either too scanty or it is rented out for other business purposes, clearly violating the building code,” Abbasi maintained.
The vehicle owners, on the other hand, are in a dilemma because they have no other option but to park their vehicles on the road or in the street most of the time. They also alleged that traffic sergeants and their fines are constantly harassing them. They said that on many occasions people also scuffled on parking issues. “If I have a car I must park it somewhere. If there is no parking space, I have to park it on the road. I have no option other than that. Then there is the iftar time, when everyone is in hurry. The situation becomes even hard when people come out of their here homes and head for Eid shopping,” said Saad Tirmizi who was shopping in Karachi Company market.
Talking to this scribe, the residents of the city complained that every year close to a festival, the parking space gets reduced to nothing. Talking to Daily Times, CDA spokesman Ramzan Sajid said, “When we make a comparison, we are happy to know that Islamabad’s parking facility is better than other cities of the country. There is not a single parking point where the CDA is charging parking fee.”
Sajid, however, said that the CDA is negotiating with private firms under Public Private Project for the construction of several multi-storeyed parking plazas on different localities in Islamabad. “Initially we have planned to construct parking plazas in G6, F7, F8 and some major markets.”