‘Parking will go haywire, while covering the channel will lead to flooding’

Can the city afford to have a bazaar on one of its main thoroughfares? The Madurai Corporation’s plan to construct 100 shops around the Vandiyur channel, running along the busy Panagal Road raises this question.

Mayor V.V. Rajan Chellappa justifies the construction of the shops, each measuring 6 ft by 8 ft, after covering the channel (recently lined with concrete). Members of the public and traders wanted a bazaar on the northern side of the city along the lines of the ones on Scott Road and RMS Road on the south side, the Mayor says.

“People have been complaining about the median blocking the main entrance of the GRH. If 100 shops come up on the road, the entire atmosphere of the Government Rajaji Hospital will be affected,” retired Deputy Commissioner of Police, G. Jayasingh, said.

Even if each shop attracts two vehicles, the parking of at least 200 vehicles, including four-wheelers, would eat up a good portion of the carriageway blocking the free flow of traffic, he fears.

The bulk of the 100 shops will consist of eateries seeking to cater to hundreds of thousands of patients and caregivers streaming into the GRH.

“These eateries will only attract more vehicles that would be parked on the road. A good portion of the road will disappear,” Mr. Jeyasingh apprehends.

Ever since the city police introduced the one-way traffic system on the Tamukkam-Periyar statue stretch of Alagarkoil, vehicles proceeding towards K.K. Nagar from Goripalayam junction and vice versa, especially four-wheelers, prefer to take Panagal Road to avoid the circuitous one-way route, the police say.

At least 10,000 people from the southern districts visit the GRH every day.

Panagal Road is so congested that the authorities have to put up a median on the road to ensure that no vehicle coming out of the hospital cuts through the traffic flow.

A barricade has been erected which forces the ambulance to take a circuitous route through a side entrance of the GRH to enter the trauma care ward.

The hospital premises is cramped with two-wheelers and parked cars.

“If the shops come up on the road and eventually the ban on parking vehicles on Panagal Road is lifted, people will prefer to park their vehicles on the road, instead of making difficult manoeuvres inside the hospital campus,” a traffic sub-inspector of police said.

The free parking on the road would be preferred to the paid parking at the hospital. The road gains significance as it serves as the entry point into Madurai for traffic from Chennai and Sivaganga.

Hapazhard parking would hinder not only the movement of ambulances, but also hamper the movement of fire tenders from the Tallakulam fire station, located at the Collectorate.

Corporation Councillor M. Dass (ward 7) said that covering the drainage channel was not approved under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission, while sanctioning the lining work of the channels in the city.

He feared that covering the channels would pose a hurdle to draining stormwater and lead to inundation of the city.

High Court Advocate S. Muthukumar said the Corporation’s proposal to put up shops was against the spirit of the 2008 Madurai Bench of Madras High Court order that asked the district administrations and local bodies in the southern districts to remove all encroachments on roads.

“The local bodies were asked to send a compliance report twice a year to the High Court Registrar,” Mr. Muthukumar said. He feared shopkeepers would dump garbage into the channel draining fresh water into the Vaigai river after winding through Tahsildar Nagar.

The advocate has sought the intervention of the Chief Secretary, Health Secretary, Collector, and Commissioner of Police.

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