Earlier this month, The Hindu published a report (When pavements turn into parking lots, July 4, 2013), as part of its ‘Right to Walk’ campaign, identifying four major commercial establishments across the city that encroached upon footpaths, forcing pedestrians to walk on the carriageway amid heavy traffic.
When contacted, two weeks back, the Corporation commissioner had promised to take immediate action against the encroachments. However, 20 days later, nothing has changed. The illegal parking lots continue to flourish.
The report mentioned four major commercial establishments — Amma Naana on Chamiers Road, Hot Chips on Sardar Patel Road, Hotel Benzz Park on Thirumalai Pillai Road and Saravanaa Bhavan on Anna Salai. A walk along these establishments often involves precarious manoeuvring, exposing the pedestrian to the relentless stream of traffic on the road.
The junior engineers and councillors of the respective wards either claimed ignorance of the matter or passed the buck to the traffic police. Also, when asked if they had received orders from higher authorities to initiate action against these commercial establishments, they did not have an answer.
“We have not received any complaints in this regard. We can act only if we receive a complaint. We have asked vehicle owners to not park on footpaths but they refuse to listen to us. What can we do?” said councillor, P. Usha, who represents ward 122, where Amma Naana is located.
A junior engineer said the local officials ‘need to cooperate with the traffic police in order to get rid of such encroachments as motorists don’t pay heed to instructions issued by us.’ But residents allege that local officials, including the traffic police, are complicit in the practice.
A junior engineer in Adyar — where Hot Chips is located — had a different response though. “An official notice will be sent to Hot Chips very soon and they will have to respond within 15 days,” he said.
But most authorities said the task was a challenging one. Councillor of ward 63, A.M. Alikhan Basheer, said, “I am aware such encroachments exist and cause trouble to pedestrians. We have asked Saravanaa Bhavan, located near Wallajah Road junction, to act but they don’t listen to us. We want the traffic police to intervene and take some action.”
Corporation officials said the owners of these commercial establishments stonewalled any action initiated by zonal officials to remove the encroachments, resulting in delay.
“Some of them seek the intervention of the judiciary when zonal officials try to remove encroachments on footpaths. The zonal officials have been directed to remove permanent encroachments on footpaths,” said Vikram Kapur, Corporation commissioner.
The Corporation has also asked the traffic police to remove vehicles parked in these illegal parking lots, he said.
A senior traffic police officer said, “We have 60 vehicles that focus on removing vehicles parked in such spots. But we need to cooperate with the Corporation.”
According to him, the root cause of the problem lies elsewhere. “How is it that these people get permission to build a commercial establishment without adequate parking space in the first place?”