R. Sujatha and Deepa H Ramakrishnan
Measures sought to remove encroachments, provide parking lots and ease traffic congestion
CHENNAI: Residents living on the streets off Usman Road and shopkeepers want better environs in T. Nagar. If the residents constantly recall a leafy neighbourhood they have lost, then shopkeepers appeal for removal of encroachments and provision of parking lots.
As per Chennai Corporation’s trade licence data, there are a total of 3,242 shops in T. Nagar area. The number excludes the hundreds of pavement shops and vendors whose number only increases every day. Though they do not hold licences to set up shops, they dictate terms when it comes to parking vehicles, say shopkeepers.
While officials acknowledge the problem and its magnitude, easy solutions are not forthcoming because both residents and shopkeepers are often left out of the decisions.
Natesan Street resident N. Venkateswaran said that at meetings with Corporation and government representatives, residents had suggested that the Usman Road flyover be extended to Nandanam and that the bus terminus be converted into a multi-level parking lot for both buses and private vehicles.
Private shop owners had also presented a proposal to the government on constructing a multi-level parking lot and were waiting for approval, said G. Rajendran of G. R. Thangamaligai Jewellery Shop. “The government also has proposals to build one similar to that in Palika Bazaar in Delhi,” he said.
“Half the time there is congestion on Usman Road because of unruly parking under the flyover. Our business is also affected,” said Shahul Hameed, committee member of Ranganathan Street Merchants’ Association. “Most of our customers come by two-wheelers and lack of parking facility has meant that there has been 30 to 40 per cent depreciation in our business.”
The G.N. Chetty Road flyover has eased congestion on several stretches, but traffic from here approaching Panagal Park have to take a circuitous route. Traffic bottlenecks have hence become the order of the day around this area. Traders feel the government must provide a viable solution.
T. Sarathy, Usman Road Traders’ Association secretary, said: “We expected an increase in business after the Usman Road flyover came up. But the traffic pattern has changed. Hawkers open shop at 11 a.m. and after that they do not allow vehicles to be parked beneath the flyover,” he said, adding: “Those of us who park our vehicles early in the day have to be aggressive if we want to take our vehicles out.”
This has also affected pedestrian movement. “There are 2,000 hawkers instead of the allowed 210. The scheme for the flyover was developed in 1999 and since then there have been many changes that have not been incorporated,” Mr. Sarathy pointed out. “Only if buses and autos come into the area will we get business. It is in the hands of the government to ensure that T. Nagar continues as a commercial hub,” he said.
Jewellery shop owner L.K.S.Syed Ahmed, however, believes parking is a problem only during festival seasons. “The adjacent lanes must be cleared of encroachments and a higher fee can be charged for parking during peak hours,” he said.
Corporation officials admit there is need to improve parking space and stormwater drain (SWD) network. The several paid parking lots including six on Thyagaraya Road, one on Venkatnarayana road near TTD, the entire Prakasam Salai, around Panagal Park and G.N. Chetty Road are only for the licensed shops but are routinely occupied by those who make their purchases from pavement vendors too.
“Under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission, a total of Rs.72 crore is being allocated for SWD work. Re-laying of roads would be taken up after the election. Laying of new pavements will not be possible because most roads, except major arterial roads, are less than 40 feet in width,” an official said.
“We are reviewing arrangements constantly,” said Shakeel Akther, Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic). “We have been receiving many letters about the diversion of buses impacting people’s movement. Our officers have been asked to do a comprehensive study of the area around Usman Road and we have to find out what best can be done,” he said.
“A lot of problems have been solved after reverting to two-way system on Thirumalai Pillai Road. We are discussing with the MTC a better plan for Madley Road junction. When we get complaints that do not pertain to us we write to the Corporation or other authorities concerned.”