Barring a few stretches along some of the main roads, the rest of the southern suburbs have hardly any pavements

The added areas of Chennai Corporation fare worse than the inner city areas in the provision of footpaths. While most roads in the inner city have a semblance of pavements, footpaths were simply not in the original design of most of the added areas. Any effort by the Corporation to remedy the situation would need to be supplemented by a strong citizens’ initiative.

Barring a few stretches along GST Road and Mount-Poonamallee Road, apart from Medavakkam Main Road and Velachery Main Road, the rest of the southern suburbs have hardly any pavements.

Areas such as Nanganallur, Meenambakkam, Madipakkam and Ullagaram, too, are bereft of pavements.

Incidentally, the visits of two Presidents speeded up the creation of pavements on GST Road. Former President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam visited Chennai a few times and the government spruced up GST Road between the airport and the city, with pavements on both sides of the road. Similarly, when Pratibha Patil visited Chennai Trade Centre at Nandambakkam to attend the Pravasiya Bharatiya Divas in January 2008, pavements were laid on Mount–Poonamalle Road between Guindy and the Nandambakkam.

But not many areas have benefited from being in the proximity of major highways. Places such as Neelankarai, Vettuvankannai, Injambakkam and Palavakkam -- sandwiched between the East Coast Road and Rajiv Gandhi Salai (Old Mahabalipuram Road) -- are far from pedestrian friendly.

“Though these highways have developed, the roads branching out on both sides have not. Most roads are very narrow and there is no space for footpaths. Roads in upper and middle-class localities have been laid from end to end. They cannot be widened,” said Guru, a share-autorickshaw driver.

Achamma Verghese of Periyar Salai in ward 185 said it took her daughters half an hour to reach their school though it wasn’t very far away. “Lots of minor accidents happen on this stretch. The pedestrian bridge across the Buckingham Canal is used by vehicles of all sizes and they pose a risk to our lives,” she said.

On 8th Street, Bharathiyar Nagar, in Neelankarai, drinking water leaking from a main pipeline flows across the road and runs into an open drain by the roadside. Sewage stagnates on, at least, four points on the road that runs through a thickly-populated residential locality.

“You can cross the road by placing a foot on the debris on this side. You needn’t walk on the sewage. That is how I entered this road from 14th Street,” said a homemaker as she gingerly made her way across the dirty road that has no signs of a pavement.

The situation is not too different in the far northern suburbs of the city.

Sixty five-year-old G. Alamelu dreads walking on the roads of Ambattur during peak hours. “I am wary of walking on roads where cars are parked on either side. A few times, I was almost hit by a passing bike or car,” said Alamelu, a resident of Ram Nagar in Ambattur that was merged with the Corporation in 2011.

Narrow roads in many localities such as Krishnapuram, Ram Nagar, Venkatapuram and Vijayalakshmipuram do not provide any space for pedestrians.

S. Ganapathy of Krishnapuram Residents’ Welfare Association said the delay in completing the underground water supply network in Ambattur is often cited as a reason for not relaying roads or constructing footpaths. “We often mention the problem to the elected representatives of the area. But, ward committee meetings are never held and civic problems are not highlighted,” he said.

Encroachment of pedestrian space is common on busy commercial stretches like Tiruvottiyur High (TH) Road too. On Saturday, a few workers were busy laying a raised concrete platform in front of a soon-to-be-opened shop on TH Road.

The platform was being built on a new concrete stormwater drain that came up where a pavement once existed. In fact, the stormwater drain would be the pavement once the work on the 4 km-stretch is completed. But, before that could happen, the space was grabbed by shop owners and hawkers along the stretch.

Haphazardly-parked container lorries too have claimed nearly half of the 80-feet-wide stretch. The ongoing stormwater drain work has left pedestrians with little space on the road.

Civic amenities, especially pavements, in the added areas of the Corporation such as Tiruvottiyur, Manali, Royapuram and Washermenpet are either non-existent or encroached upon.

“Encroachment of pavements is rampant across the city but in north Chennai, there are hardly any pavements to encroach upon. The residents have basic amenities like water and power supply and garbage disposal system to worry about,” said S. Mariappan, a resident of Tiruvottiyur.

(With inputs from K. Manikandan, Deepa H. Ramakrishnan, K. Lakshmi and D. Madhavan)

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