Straphangers United demands that the Chennai Corporation stop its planned programme of road widening, because it is against the interests of pedestrians and violative of the National Policies of the UPA Government on people-friendly development of cities.
Chennai Corporation Zones Five and Ten have advertised works in The Hindu today, along with those of Zone IV, seeking to widen roads in Divisions 152 in Zone Ten (Sastri Nagar First Ave, First Main Road, Besant Nagar 1st and 2nd Cross Streets, Durgabai Deshmukh Road, Division 155 (Tiger Varadachari Street) and so on. The advertisements are found in the print edition of today’s The Hindu.
Put together, the value of these works comes to tens of lakhs of rupees in the three Zones. As this blog has pointed out in the past, road widening is an anti-people concept affecting the rights of pedestrians. To make it sound politically correct, the Corporation talks in some cases of forming new footpaths.
This is contrary to what the civic body does on the ground. In most cases, the so-called new footpaths do not meet the stipulation of the Indian Roads Congress, do not have a standard kerb height and are hostile to pedestrians, particularly the handicapped and the aged.
Also, pedestrians have to compete with commercial interests on such footpaths (see photos). The Chennai Corporation is obliged to uphold the rights of pedestrians, as it is seeking funds from the Centre under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission; the Metropolitan Transport Corporation hopes to augment the fleet using funds available under the National Urban Transport Policy.
By failing to follow the norms stipulated in these policy documents, the Chennai Corporation and where applicable the State Highways have forfeited their claim to Central assistance. Straphangers United demands that the Ministry of Urban Development at the Centre and the World Bank suspend all funds to the Corporation and the MTC, until these agencies implement the policy formulations in letter and spirit.
Pedestrians have lost much of the space that they had, historically speaking, for safe movement over the last two decades; unabated cornering of their space by commercial interests, and by the car and motor-cycle lobbies cannot be accepted.
Neither the Corporation nor the Highways Department has spent a paisa to create new walking facilities and safe road crossing points, although they derive revenues from pedestrians by way of State and civic taxes.
Not one new pedestrian subway has been constructed by the Chennai Corporation in more than a decade despite massive investments in shopping and commercial real estate. It has failed to invest in approach roads and street lighting for railway stations including the new MRTS, and for better access to bus stops and bus stands.
The pictures here speak for themselves on the loss of pedestrian rights in the City of Chennai. The scenes show:
(All photos taken with Nokia 3500c and edited with open source freeware GIMP)