ISSUE With an increase in the number of vehicles on the roads, Puducherry seems to be having a problem of plenty
Can you imagine over eight lakh vehicles run on the roads of Puducherry? No wonder vehicles without dents and scratches are a rarity.
In the last year alone, over 45,000 vehicles have been registered in the Union Territory. For a population of 12 lakh there are six lakh two-wheelers, which translates to at least one two-wheeler for every two persons.
“Driving inside the town is a difficult affair. We avoid going near the town and if it is a must the work is done during lean hours. Only two wheelers and small cars manage to nip in and out,” says Sanjay Naygandhi, a resident of Puducherry.
“The noise from horns is too much to bear. Earlier, there used to be hundreds of bicycles and very few cars. The town used to be silent and shops would shut down by 7.30 p.m. But now all that has changed… we only have motorists who are in a terrific hurry and are not bothered about pedestrians,” laments N. Rajan, a senior citizen of Kosakadai Street. The town area, which was the pride of Puducherry and a tourist attraction is slowly losing several of its characteristics such as being pedestrian friendly.
Uma Mohan, a broadcaster with All India Radio said when she came here 27 years ago she used to walk from the signal at Raja Theatre to the beach every evening and walking was a pleasure then. “When friends and relatives came over, they used to appreciate the town’s cleanliness and neatly paved roads. Though vehicles have been banned in the evenings on the beach road, getting there is a major problem as over 40 streets in the town area have been dug up for laying water pipelines. And in most places the footpaths are broken or are missing,” she adds.
Raj Bhavan constituency MLA K. Lakshminarayanan says that for the last six months the Rs. 70 crore work to replace the 30-year-old rusty pipelines has been proceeding in an unplanned manner. “We had asked the PWD to take up work in a phased manner and at nights so that traffic is not affected but that did not happen,” he explains.
With almost all streets at right angles in the town, it is usually easy for someone new to the place to drive around. However with all the road cuts, trying to get into particular streets has become a nightmare for many. Traffic jams that used to be a rarity have become a common occurrence now as hundreds of commercial establishments and hotels have sprung up inside the town and people park vehicles in front of them in a haphazard manner. Slowly heritage buildings are disappearing or being remodelled into modern monstrosities to accommodate businesses.
According to INTACH Puducherry Co-convenor and Chief Architect Ajit Koujalgi at least a 1,000 heritage structures have been lost to commercialisation in the last 10 years. In 1995 a survey of the boulevard town had enlisted 1,800 buildings with 1,500 of them in the Tamil part.
“Now the Tamil part is losing more buildings by the day. But people or the government can’t be blamed for this. With spiralling land prices, people just care about the land and not about the buildings where their grandfather grew up. What is needed is a concerted effort to save the buildings and that includes planning, a Heritage Act and proper implementation of rules,” he adds.
DEEPA H. RAMAKRISHNAN