“Hyderabad has turned out to be a city without footpaths. Figures show that 40 to 45 per cent accidents here involved pedestrians. Except for walking, footpaths are available for hawkers, repair shops and even for tree plantation,” said former Additional Commissioner (Traffic) and now Cyberabad Police Commissioner C.V. Anand.
“You can hardly walk 200 metres on a footpath without finding some obstruction or other on the city roads.” — This remark was made not by an angry citizen, but by the capital’s top civic bosses – Mayor Mohd. Majid Hussain and Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) Commissioner M.T. Krishna Babu – in a meeting few months ago.
These comments aptly sum up state of affairs as far as footpaths/pavements go in the twin cities. The municipal corporation has under its jurisdiction nearly 6,000 km of roads for maintenance and it is reckoned that about 3,000 km of the road stretches have some form of footpath on either sides as per records. Of course, this figure is disputed by many.
Even if the records are anything to go by, senior municipal officials have no qualms in accepting that footpaths are ‘occupied’ by electric and telegraph poles, junction boxes of power utilities, ramps, cables and even trees. “Footpaths belong to the local body but every other department utilises it without our permission,” points out engineer-in-chief R. Dhan Singh.
GHMC Commissioner and the Mayor had tried to rope in CPDCL, BSNL and private telecom/Internet firms to take off their respective junction boxes/cables from footpaths to underground. While the power utility’s underground cable work continues at a snail’s pace, the private telecom/Internet firms refused to fall in line to form a common duct despite dire threats of cutting off their respective wires.
“And when we tried to remove the trees, the green brigade were after us,” sigh senior officials. While the GHMC conveniently blames other departments, it too has been guilty of allowing ramps of residential and commercial complexes jut on to the footpaths.
“The town planning wing has to ensure the building plan cleared is such that the ramps or the cellars don’t occupy footpaths but it is rampant all over,” they admit. What the GHMC has managed to do was to improve footpaths to an extent of 25 km on some roads leading to Hitex in Madhapur during the bio-diversity summit last year at a cost of about Rs.50 crore.
Pre-cast kerbs were taken up in these stretches with the assurance to take up the initiative in other roads too. But, the drive and energy dissipated after the summit ended even as the newly laid ones show wear and tear. Later, five roads - Road No 10 & 12 of Banjara Hills, Road No 36 of Jubilee Hills, Himayatnagar-Liberty Road and Salar Jung Museum road were supposed to have been developed as model roads with pedestrian facilities but little progress.
In the meantime, an accessibility and walkability audit of road No. 36, Jubilee Hills and Kavuri Hills junction was taken up with the help of voluntary groups from Delhi and Vaada Foundation here. The team critically looked at the crossings, junctions, footpaths, footpath surfaces, refuge areas, refurbishment being undertaken to make the areas pedestrian-friendly and were to have submitted a report to the Commissioner for necessary action.
But, the GHMC is hamstrung as it does not have untrammelled powers. “The government has to issue a directive to all departments like telecom, water and electricity boards, towards formation of pedestrian-friendly footpaths otherwise, little will change,” is the pithy comment of senior officials.