Even as the Corporation has unveiled plans to reconstruct roads along 1,000 stretches across the city, the question for most Chennaiites is – what about our footpaths?

Two years ago, for Shanthi Bhaskar then a homemaker in T. Nagar, crossing the road to go to the neighbourhood supermarket was an ordeal. Today, Ms. Bhaskar is the Chennai Corporation councillor of the locality (ward 113), but nothing has changed.

“Footpaths here are either damaged or completely encroached upon. No pedestrian can use them,” she said.

Ward 113 in T. Nagar, comprises roads stretching to 27 km – both bus routes and interior roads. Thousands of pedestrians use these streets every day. And yet, according to Ms, Bhaskar 25 km of these roads have unusable footpaths. Everywhere one looks, footpaths are broken, taken over by houses or commercial entities or littered with construction debris.

The situation is not unique to ward 113. Most of the councillors and junior engineers in the Corporation’s 200 wards face similar challenges.

Even as the Corporation has unveiled plans to reconstruct roads along 1,000 stretches across the city, the question for most Chennaiites is – what about our footpaths?

Councillors and Corporation engineers say they are helpless. “Many property owners think the road opposite their building belongs to them. They do not seem to understand that they are preventing lakhs of pedestrians from enjoying the right to walk safely on a footpath,” said an engineer.

For instance, a builder had taken over part of the footpath, building a ramp that formed a driveway to a building. Not only did he encroach upon pedestrian space, he also closed a stormwater drain manhole there. This, officials said, was a criminal offence. As per building norms, ramps should reach the ‘zero level’ at the ‘building line’, which is the inner boundary of the property – not part of the pavement.

“The Corporation demolished the ramp. We managed to clear that spot, but the problem exists in many others. As a result, pedestrians are left vulnerable to accidents as they use the carriageway. Since there are also no zebra crossings, walking here is highly dangerous,” said Ms. Bhaskar.

Habibullah Road is particularly important, as it connects the Kodambakkam station with Teynampet. From the station to G.N. Chetty Road is just about a half-hour walk – if, that is, the footpath was in good condition. But since pedestrians are forced to jostle with heavy traffic on the carriageway, many have begun to use vehicles themselves, leading to further congestion of the road.

“I would like to walk. But I am forced to go by autorickshaw since the footpath is blocked,” said Krishnamurthy, a 75-year-old resident who uses such stretch regularly.

Ironically, a portion of Habibullah Road figures on the list of roads in the Corporation’s ambitious road reconstruction project. Tenders have been floated and work orders will be issued shortly.

While the civic authorities could be blamed for the encroachments and obstacles that dot the entire stretch, local residents are not entirely blameless – nobody seems to have taken up the issue. Many are so used to using the main road that they are oblivious to the state of the footpaths.

“The footpaths are not in good shape. But I do not know if encroachment are to blame,” said A. Sikkandar, a pedestrian.

Experts say the footpath on Habibullah Road is a particularly clear example of what the Corporation can do if it wants to – since the entire road already has a footpath, all it needs is a few lakh rupees of revenue expenditure to clear encroachments and rebuild damaged portions.

“This footpath does not require any major capital expenditure. It does not need new footpaths built. All it needs is money collected from the encroachers, and a large amount of political will. Residents adding their voice would also help,” said a city planner.

Talk Back

We invite readers to participate in this campaign. You can email pictures of bad pavements (size not more than 1.5 MB) to myright@thehindu.co.in

In the email, please give your name, contact information, location of the sidewalk, description of the issue and action required.

Your pictures will be posted on www.facebook.com/chennaicentral and will also be considered for publication in the newspaper.

Website: www.thehindu.com/chennai

Twitter: @chennaicentral; Hashtag: #righttowalk

More In: Chennai | News