By Umedjon Majidi
Dushanbe’s local drivers have been complaining about the city government’s actions in organizing the head of states’ summit for the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) which has just taken place on 14 September 2014. The complaints are numerous: The city’s second main street, Ismoil Somoni Avenue, is partially closed; the right lane of the roadway between the President’s Office and the Avicenna memorial is under renovation. This avenue connects with another main road in the city: Rudaki Avenue, where all government institutions are located. The city authorities informed local news agency Asia Plus that the roadway will be closed for 10-12 days; with an increasing number of cars in the city, local taxi drivers believe this could be dangerous for Dushanbe’s roads.
Road renovation at Somoni Ave in preparation of the Head of the States’ SCO Summit in September
Local residents take the view that official state events cause inconvenience for transport between city districts. It is especially true for Dushanbe’s main Rudaki and Somoni avenues. Recently, another small section of Ismoili Somoni Ave was closed for renovation. It is unclear why such renovation was not started in August during the month of Ramadhan when traffic was slower. However, since August 3, according to a local taxi driver, the closure has caused a big loss in income and great inconvenience for local taxi drivers and residents. A local taxi driver said that usually for a 3-somoni (60 cent) shared taxi between Zarnisor Market and Dushanbe airport, a distance of 17 kilometers, would earn him 25 TJS (USD $5) . After closing approximately part of Somoni Avenue he would have to drive an alternative route that adds , more than a third of the distance, depriving him of time better spent ferrying new customers.
Bus stops are renovated very often in Dushanbe
Unfortunately, it has become a tradition for Tajikistan to initiate large infrastructure renovation projects covering roads and bridges and repainting apartments, prior to national or international events held in the country. The burden for this falls on the citizens, especially when projects affect transportation avenues (the town’s main thoroughfares).
It appears that little thought is put into minimizing inconveniences for residents of the capital city. For example, closures primarily occur during working hours, multiple main roads are closed at the same time, and detours are not clearly marked, forcing traffic to redirect itself into sideroads and causing back-ups at blocked roads. It would be efficient for the city administration to run such projects after midnight and finish before 7am just as the regular work day starts for the rest of the city, without causing inconvenience for citizens and keeping transport communication intact.
For Dushanbe residents, the recent SCO Summit preparation created more chaos and inconvenience, a high price to pay for the prestige of hosting the event. These unnecessary steps can create a negative image of the SCO among the populace. Dushanbe’s residents blame government officials for ‘showing off’ projects and initiatives that have hugely inconvenienced the city. Hence, all they ask is that by all means let the country initiate and host events that benefit the country and its image, but not at the expense of the people’s well-being.
Umedjon Majidi is a PhD candidate at Tajikistan Academy of Sciences. His primary interests are Central and South Asia. He can be contacted at majidiu_at_gmail_dot_com.