CHENNAI: It’s been a year and half since Cyclone Vardah ravaged the city and its suburbs by felling trees and electric poles. However, the Medavakkam town panchayat has still not replaced the street lights on the Medavakkam Koot Road along the Nanmangalam forest stretch.
This stretch, which connects the Velachery Main Road and the Thoraipakkam-Pallavaram radial road, is infamous for anti-social elements and tipplers, who find cover in the forests nearby. Locals and commuters claim they are afraid of crossing the stretch alone at night. “A few youngsters followed my daughter when she was getting back home on her scooty last month and made lewd comments. They take advantage of the dark because they know we can’t identify them,” said S Kannappan, who runs a juice shop on the Koot Road in Medavakkam.
What happened to Kannappan’s daughter is not a stray incident. Other women in the locality also claim they have had similar experiences and blame it on the absence of streetlights.“After 10:30 pm, only lorries and a few cars pass along this stretch. Lots of men come and sit along the border of the forest and pass comments on women. When drunk, they pick quarrels with riders of two-wheelers,” said L Ashwini, a resident, who claims the Medavakkam town panchayat has repeatedly ignored their demands for streetlights.
Siddharth N, an IT professional, who uses the stretch, claims that someone threw a bottle at his motorcycle when he was commuting to office at night.“Luckily it fell on the road before me. I was able to swerve and avoid it,” he said. Lack of streetlights has also made the stretch unsafe for many riders as they are frequently blinded by high beams of cars.
When Express visited the stretch on Sunday, it found only three streetlights present at the opposite side of the road. With two of these streetlights facing the wrong side, locals claim it does little to light up the two-km stretch which borders the forest.
While a small portion of this stretch falls under the Kovilambakkam town panchayat jurisdiction, the major part comes under the jurisdiction of the Medavakkam town panchayat.
Officials from both local bodies offered conflicting reasons for not replacing the streetlights which lined up the forest’s border.
While an official in the Kovilambakkam town panchayat cited lack of funds for the delay, an official in the Medavakkam town panchayat alleged the Forest department had stopped them from replacing the broken streetlights.
However, a forest official told Express that the borders had been marked and there was enough space given to the local body to install streetlights.“They have put up a transformer there. How can there be no place for streetlights,” he argued.
Women at risk
Motorists say the Medav-akkam Koot Road has been attracting anti-social elements, who find cover in the forests nearby, and women are at particular risk