IF anything rivals the chaos of traffic across the country, it is the endless line of encroachments and blockades on the same roads on which the vehicles ply. From large cities such as Karachi to smaller towns, often even rural settlements, everyone, it would appear, wants to appropriate some part of the street for themselves. Anti-encroachment drives have produced mixed results, and in many instances, the illegalities return as soon as the authorities’ attention is diverted. Now the traffic police in Lahore have launched a programme that tries to reimagine the way in which encroachments and illegal parking lots on the city’s roads can be dealt with. Launched a few days ago, the One Week, One Road initiative involves eight of the department’s better qualified wardens who have been chosen to form two squads to visit various areas in the city to select one road where encroachments are to be cleared, engage with traders and shopkeepers to brainstorm ideas on how deficiencies can be rectified, and prepare assessments of the roads in the context of the availability (or absence) of traffic signals, street lights, U-turns, etc. On Thursday, Lahore Chief Traffic Officer Rai Ijaz told the media that earlier the Mughalpura Link Road and Allama Iqbal Road — both extremely high-density thoroughfares — had been cleared of encroachments and illegal parking lots. Now, he said, Queen’s Road and Bund Road — where obstructions to the free flow of traffic are often of legendary proportions — are being focused on, and warning notices have been sent to 148 shopkeepers.
One must hope that the Lahore initiative is successful; if the authorities are able to find a sustainable solution to one of the country’s most pressing problems, more power to them. Engaging with the encroachers, rather than simply razing their means of livelihood, and addressing issues such as the shortage of legal parking lots, may be the key to this solution. Other city administrations must look on with interest, for if it works, the programme can be replicated in their jurisdictions.