Downtown

Paved with problems

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Sujatha Vijayaraghavan on the all-season topic: pedestrian unfriendly walkways

The height of some of the newly laid pavements display the attitude towards pedestrians. Clearly a foot and more above the roads, they are a challenge to the young and the old alike.

There it is, the other problem of the ever-rising road levels. Topping the road indiscriminately with gravel year after year the roads are rising at an alarming rate and the repercussions are felt already. Some of the plots of houses in our neighbourhood that were more than one foot above road level in the seventies are now two feet below the road. Rainwater has entered the houses more than once and every spell of heavy rains is a threat. The houses built today raise their plot levels at least by three to five feet above the current road level and build the access ramps at a steep angle on the pavement. Anyone who tries to walk on that part of the pavement runs the risk of toppling and rolling down the embankment.

In this perpetual race between the rising roads and platforms there is hardly any length of time when the platform is of the right height. By the time it gets there, the authorities decide that it is time to redo them and raise their height. Once again, it is mountain climbing time.

Paving the sidewalks with concrete slabs or ornate tiles is another feature that defeats the very purpose for which it was executed. Laid on top of earth and joined with cement, these come loose with the first spell of rains and prove to be a hazard to the pedestrian.

Can we not go back to the earth-packed, red-earth topped pavements with stone or concrete kerb stones of yore that were level, cost-effective and could be repaired with ease?

If nature does its bit to undo what man has done, man himself proves to be the biggest threat to the pavements. Even before the cement has dried on the newly laid platform, gangs of men descend with crowbars to demolish portions of it mercilessly. Corporation, Metro Water, Electricity department, telephone departments, both public and private, arrive in droves for repairs and to attend to complaints or to give new connections. They wreck the platform and leave after their work is completed. For their work does not include the repairing and relaying of the damaged platform. The local wing of the Corporation needs to attend to it. Theoretically, the digging departments are required to inform the Corporation and take its permission to dig after depositing the cost of covering and repairing the platform. Thankfully this rule is observed in the breach every time. Otherwise the hapless householder will have no water, electricity or telephone and suffer from clogged drainage while the papers crawl at snail’s pace from department to department.

Once the pavements are broken thus they are left in as-is-where-is condition until the entire stretch is relaid again. And thereby hangs a tale. For years, the residents of our locality joined under the Exnora association have been begging the authorities to repair the pavements. “Don’t worry .We have put up a proposal for relaying the pavements and we shall do it in another six months,” has been the standard reply.

Now, look at this.

More than two decades ago when my husband and I were in Japan we were witness to a phenomenon, which was nothing short of a miracle. We had left our hotel around 7 pm. It was midnight when we returned and we were taken aback when we found the road in front of our hotel dug up with a trench five by thirty feet and a depth of about six feet. There were floodlights; workforce and police diverting traffic and the whole area had been cordoned off. We had to cross over to our hotel on a narrow metal bridge. Since we were to stay in the hotel for two more days we were worried about the inconvenience and noise and the prospect of wheeling our luggage on the narrow bridge.

The next morning when we walked out around 7 a.m. we could not believe our eyes. There was no sign of whatever we had seen the previous night. The road was laid smooth and looked a little new. We found out that the repairs were completed by 3 a.m. How long will it take us to follow their example?

(Sujatha Vijayaraghavan is secretary of Venus Civic Exnora)

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2020 10:29:47 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/downtown/paved-with-problems/article6577833.ece

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