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Traffic Congestion in Wadi-us-Salaam Cemetery: Causes and Solutions

Traffic Congestion in Wadi-us-Salaam Cemetery: Causes and Solutions
Asst. Prof. Dr. Hamid Athab Al-Jameel
University of Kufa– Civil Engineering Department


Wadi-us-Salaam is an Islamic cemetery, located in the Shia holy city of Najaf, Iraq. It is the largest cemetery in the world (Wikipedia, 2019). The cemetery contains six of millions of bodies. It also attracts millions of pilgrims annually(Wikipedia, 2019)
The cemetery is located near the shrine of Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib, the first Shia Imam(Wikipedia, 2019). Thus, many Shi’ites in Iraq request that they be buried in this cemetery. However, burial at the cemetery “means being placed in one of the cemetery’s many catacombs. According to an undertaker at the cemetery, each crypt can hold up to 50 bodies as indicated in Figure 1

Figure 1 Wadi-us-Salaam cemetery.

Traffic Congestion Causes in Wadi-us-Salaam and their solutions
Wadi Al-Salaam cemetery currently suffers from high traffic congestion especially in each Friday during the year due to a high number of visitors from different cities of Iraq to visit their dead. Therefore, the traffic flow is concentrated on the roads of Wadi Al-Salaam and the surrounding roads especially the ring road of Bahir Al-Najaf, Kerbala-Najaf road whereas no such congestion on other roads away from this area. Recently, the traffic congestion problem receives some attention by sending some traffic policemen to regulate the traffic there and reducing the traffic congestions and bottlenecks.
In some religious issues such as Eids and the ceremony of Al-Mabaath Al-Nabouy, the traffic congestion, the difficulties of entering and leaving from the cemetery; and long queues may last for some days. Accordingly, one could ask what are the causes of such traffic congestion and what are the suitable suggestions for that?
From the important causes of this problem is limited number of accessible and suitable roads within the cemetery and the absence of regulations in this area. Before more than one decade, the government opened some roads but these roads did cover the demand because there are more than 50 graves in each 100m2 as indicated in Figure 2 and the cemetery seems to be closed from each direction especially from Bahir Al-Najaf zone and its roads so narrow and can’t carry heavy flow.

Figure 2 The roads of Wadi Al-Salaam and the density of graves.

The suggested solutions to reduce the congestion and suffering of the visitors could be summarized as:
1. Connect the road of the cemetery entrance which is the extension of Al-Hizam Al-Akdar road coming from Al-Askareen Tunnel with the ring road surrounding the cemetery from Bahir Al-Najaf zone. This connection may help more in reducing congestion and provide another option for drivers to use to mitigate the congestion.
2. Open other roads as entrances and exits between the cemetery and the ring road of Bhair Al-Najaf. In addition, open new roads within the cemetery according to the traffic flow that carry by these roads. Some of these roads should be major roads with certain specifications and minor roads which should have special specifications and standards. These roads will provide both accessibility and mobility for the cemetery.
3. Conduct specific traffic study to determine traffic flow entering the cemetery during Fridays and other religion issues and think about new management to deal with such high traffic demand in this area.
4. Plan to use public transportation means such as Tram which could transfer more than 10000 people per hour per line for each direction such study has been introduced by Al-Jameel and Yahya (2017) as published in Dohuk Journal Vol. 20 No. 1.

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