At the crack of dawn on Monday, when Sub-Inspector Kistaiah went out for his morning walk at Ramdeveguda, he was mowed down by a car. In the night, Anjaneyulu, a painter, was walking back home on the edge of the road at Kushaiguda, when a water tanker ran over him. Police statistics reveal that in 2016, about 469 pedestrians died. The number of people with scrapes and serious injuries runs into thousands.
“You cannot have a world class city without world class pedestrian infrastructure. See cities like New York or London. At a time when the world is focussing on creating infrastructure for walkers and cyclists, our focus still remains on motorists,” says Kanthimathi Kannan of the Right to Walk Foundation.
The situation is unlikely to change in a major way as the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation has thrown up its hands. “Hyderabad is an unplanned city. Even now, whatever we are doing is in an unplanned way. We have reduced the footpaths as the number of vehicles has soared. It is not just the citizens but even the utilities are using the footpaths,” admits a senior official.
A case in point is the steady erosion of footpath space around the Kasu Brahmananda Reddy Park. While it is wide and intact near the entrance, in the rear portion on Road no 92, it has been shrunk to two feet where it’s difficult even to walk.
“We were forced to reduce the space for footpaths as the vehicular traffic has increased. In certain high density corridors, we cannot afford slowdown of traffic and that’s the reason we had to widen roads at the cost of footpaths,” says the GHMC official.
The big push for footpaths came in 2012 as the city played host to COP-11. Footpath projects worth ₹25 crore were sanctioned to be created in 155 locations. The work began on projects but once the event was over, the zeal disappeared.
Onus on GHMC
The Lok Ayukta, which heard a petition by the Right to Walk Foundation about making footpaths mandatory, passed the onus of creating the infrastructure to the GHMC.
Incidentally, the Lok Ayukta office at Basheerbagh has no footpath and whatever space remains has been dug up in front of it, while the space on the right of the office is occupied by squatters.
“Where does the government rustle up huge budgets for grandiose flyovers when they don’t have money to make proper footpaths even on the main roads?” asks Shankar Narayan, a city-based architect campaigning for improving basic infrastructure in the city.
One of the activists highlights low priority to footpaths by pointing out their absence near CM’s Camp Office at Somajiguda. “There is no footpath despite the area being the hub of the city due to its location. Similar is the case with the GHMC head office and the Secretariat. I dare the GHMC Commissioner to walk from his office to the Secretariat, a distance of 100 metres. He cannot. It is dangerous as there are no footpaths,” says Ms. Kannan.