Pavements here serve as additional commercial space for grocery stores

In north Chennai, areas such as Royapuram and Tondiarpet offer innumerable examples of how footpaths can disappear. Here, pavements serve as additional commercial space for grocery stores, hotels, furniture showrooms, marriage halls, textile showrooms and automobile repair shops. Trees, electricity junction boxes and banners complete the list of obstacles for walkers.

Even the two arterial stretches in the locality — M.S. Koil Street in Royapuram and Tiruvottiyur High (TH) Road in Tondiarpet — are no exception to such violations of haphazard parking. Even school and hospital zones have barely any space for residents to walk.

And, to top it all, short spells of rains leave behind pools of stagnant water on the sides of the roads and pedestrians end up walking in the middle. Garbage is dumped on the footpath at some spots. “This is old Madras and it has not kept in tune with growing infrastructure needs,” said Paul, a resident of North Mada Church Street in Royapuram.

Ajitha, a resident of Adam Street, said the condition of footpaths was specifically bad in interior streets. “There are many schools in the area and travelling with our children is extremely hazardous. We have learned to get used to the situation,” she added.’

Earnest Paul, president of Royapuram residents’ welfare association, put the blame on shopkeepers for the situation in areas such as M.S. Koil StreetDuring wedding days, the marriage halls turn the roadsides into their parking lots, he said. Kumar, a resident of Royapuram and auto driver, said West Mada Church Street and South Mada Church Street witness constant flow of heavy vehicles to the harbour gate. “Tea shops and automobile repair shops occupy the footpaths leaving pedestrians at the mercy of the vehicles. Lorries are also stationed on the roadside,” he said. At some places, the slabs on the pavements are damaged.

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