By Siri Gamage –
Recently I spent two weeks at Peradeniya on a family visit. During this time, I used public transport between Kandy and Panideniya on Peradeniya road. The period coincided with Kandy Perahara and there was additional traffic. Nonetheless, I was appalled to observe the conditions on the road and the difficulties the public including school children and parents face. Here, I explain the issues and possible solutions in the hope that authorities in the Yahapalana government will take note.
The road from Kandy to Peradeniya is about 5 kms. From Peradeniya there is another 2 kms to Panideniya on lower Gampola road passing Peradeniya railway station. This part of the road is in a terrible state (However, there is some activity on ground to expand and renovate this section). One day I spent 1.5 hrs in a bus to move between Kandy and Mulgampola during peak hour. Distance is about 3 kms. The congestion was so bad that vehicles moved at snails phase. Reasons for this congestion are manifold:
1. There are two lanes going from Peradeniya to Kandy in the upper road (Uda Para). However, only one lane from Kandy to Peradeniya. Thus there is less space for buses, trucks etc to move faster.
2. Three wheelers fill the gaps when vehicular traffic moves as well as not move. They don’t follow traffic rules.
3. Excessive number of vehicles on road. There are cheaper Indian made, Malaysian and other cars on road. I even saw a car in a size of a three-wheeler.
Photo credit – Facebook I Love Kandy
1. Widening the Upper road and introducing another lane from Kandy to Peradeniya
2. Constructing an overpass from Kandy to Peradeniya (less preferred)
3. Constructing a driverless Sky Train (as in Bangkok) above ground with public-private partnership. Have several stations in between.
4. Along with 3 above, construct a wider footpath and a cycleway above ground between Kandy-Peradeniya (Important for modern lifestyle purposes. Shoppers and tourists can use. Cycles ought to be available at both ends for hire).
When moving or not (due to acceleration of engines while still), vehicles release exhaust gas, i.e. diesel fume. One gets a burning sensation in the throat and chest when inhaling this fume from open windows. I had to use a handkerchief all the way during my travels in buses to avoid this poisonous gas. My experience is that if I don’t, I develop a persistent cough, i.e. Kandy Kassa that can last for weeks if not months. Cough syrup does not cure this ailment.
I am concerned about the health impact of this pollution on thousands of people of all ages that spend hours on this stretch of the road including school children and elderly.Those who work in shops, offices and stalls along the way, may experience similar health impact. This is a terrible state that needs immediate attention by authorities.
1. Further checks on the level of fume released by larger vehicles
2. Encourage drivers not to accelerate engines while still.
3. Encourage the public to use masks to cover mouth and noses
4. Develop alternate route above ground and additional lane on existing road as suggested.
Peradeniya Railway Station
Given the significance of the area close to the University, botanical gardens, Mahaweli River, Hantane hills etc. this should be a place of pride that reflects Kandyan architectural heritage. Instead, we still have the ‘old structure’ constructed for Queen Elizabeth’s visit during J.R’s time. The roof is made of asbestos (This is the same in Colombo Fort station also?).
The entrance is covered with mud when raining and dust when not raining. It is not sealed. On one side, there are piles of stones stored (on railway line side). On the other side, bowsers fill petrol. In the past, petrol was transported to the nearby filling station using the railway. For a decade or so, this practice has been abandoned. Instead bowsers are used. Along the Peradeniya-Panideniya stretch, one can see waiting bowsers on one side of the road limiting space available for traffic. It is rumoured that this change was to allow particular authority figures to make profits by deploying such bowsers. This practice needs immediate investigation.
Foreign tourists and locals look for aesthetic enjoyment in public places such as railway stations instead of mud, dust and large petrol bowsers. It is incomprehensible why authorities that of course travel in air-conditioned comfort with escorts neglect such an important place! A renovation plan for the Peradeniya station premises should be a priority.
What I have described here is an example of the pathetic sense of neglect by those in charge of roads and railways. They don’t seem to have either the experience of discomfort as experienced by general public who use public transport or they don’t care. As a result, the public who use public transport and suffer from health conditions develop antagonistic emotions on top of physical discomforts.
Developing Kandy-Peradeniya/Panideniya road should be an essential part of Kandy city development project undertaken with the assistance of Japanese government. Panideniya should also be included in the Kandy City Council area.
Addressing the pollution and congestion issues in Kandy can provide an economic and social dividend as well as benefits to the resident population and visitors. What is needed is foresight in planning for the next generation.
*Dr. Siri Gamage – Formerly at University of Peradeniya