City medians, traffic islands lose greenery, turn an eyesore

Urban planners blame major infra projects

With cattle and goats roaming freely, chewing on grass and saplings planted in the road medians and people walking all over them, , the city’s medians and traffic islands have been losing their green patches.

Add to this the water shortage in the city and the road medians are nothing but an eyesore.

Both the Chennai Corporation and the Highways Department manage roads, medians, spaces beneath the flyovers, traffic islands and small patches along roadsides.

Plants, apart from offering a pleasant sight in the middle of a concrete jungle the city has become, also help cut down pollution, said an urban planner.

The Corporation has 471 bus routes across 387 km, but medians with some greenery can be seen only on 99 roads, along 48.92 km. The city also has 99 traffic islands and 163 roadside parks where the greenery has reduced considerably.

Concrete medians

The reason, sources in the civic body say, are the major infrastructure projects, including the Metro Rail, that have led to the demolition of medians, resulting in the reduction of greenery along the roads. Concrete medians without any space for growing plants have been constructed along 173 roads, for 95.96 km.

According to official sources, several median strips have turned into concrete structures as ward-level officials have not taken steps to restore the greenery.

Harbour MLA Sekar Babu said residents had objected to the reduction of greenery along roads and the medians in several city neighbourhoods. “The Chennai Corporation and the Highways have been demolishing old medians, removing the greenery. Highways officials have demolished the median opposite the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital. Greenery along many corporation roads have also been removed,” said Mr. Babu.

S. Swaminathan, secretary of the JAMBA United Welfare Association (a federation of residents’ welfare associations of Mogappair West), said several medians along roads in the area had not been maintained properly. Anna Nagar roundtana used to look very good, with a lot of plants. It has been damaged due to Metro work, he said.

Urban planning expert N. Mathavan said greenery along medians was properly maintained even in drought-hit areas of the world.

“Greenery on the road median is good only along the Rajiv Gandhi Salai. Most Corporation roads have stopped maintaining greenery along medians, traffic islands and the roads. Corporation bus routes looked good because of the greenery. Anna Salai had very good greenery, but the stretch was damaged because of the Metro project. Now the Metro work is over, but the greenery has not been restored,” said Mr. Mathavan.

However, certain routes that are taken by VVIPs have medians with plants, such as Cathedral Road, Gandhi Mandapam Road and Greams Road.

The Parks Department uses waste water from the swimming pool on Marina beach every night to water the plants along the median on Cathedral Road, officials said.

Lack of staff

Another reason for the poor maintenance of medians is the shortage of labourers in the Parks Department.

For example, several labourers of the department are newly-appointed young women graduates who have been posted on compassionate grounds.

Since they are over-qualified for the job of maintaining the plants and shrubs, they are posted as office assistants, affecting work on the field, officials said.

Another section of labourers are slightly older workers who are not physically fit. The contractors responsible for watering the plants have also failed to maintain the greenery along many stretches, civic officials said.

As far as the Highways Department is concerned, of the 49 km of road that it maintains inside the core city, 25 km have medians, but most stretches don’t have plants due to Metro works.

“We are thinking of reviving plants along the Airport-Kathipara stretch. The CMRL has been saying that they will landscape the space beneath the Koyambedu and Kathipara grade separators and the space on the median along that stretch. Once our roads are restored, we will take up greening activity wherever space is available,” explained an official source.

Former Mayor Ma. Subramanian said greenery on medians was a necessity and to maintain it properly, the Chennai Corporation should increase manpower in the Parks Department.

“It should also install better watering mechanisms in parks and more lorries to water the medians. We had retrieved many lands that fell under open space reservation, but those are not being maintained now,” he charged.

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Printable version | May 26, 2020 5:41:46 PM |

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