KOCHI: Uneven surfaces, varied kerb heights, improper bus shelters, flex boards and unauthorised parking, there are quite a few hurdles for a pedestrian to negotiate in the city. With Kochi fast becoming a smart city, the facilities offered to commoners who use footpaths and other non-motorable transportation is far from desired. Despite many plans being mooted for better walkways, nothing seems to materialise. We explore why.
The Metro Rail fiasco
Albeit having major plans on the anvil, the lack of coordination between various agencies is visible in implementation. This happens mostly in Kochi Metro Rail work.
“Currently, the work is happening between Edappally to MG Road and High Court Junction corridor of Kochi Metro. Utility shifting is the major issue here. We were stuck for over six months without any progress at Deshabhimani Road. As there are many stakeholders, work is not moving well. In addition, we have land constraints for the proposed plan and KMRL is not in a position to acquire further land,” said Reshmi, PRO, Kochi Metro Rail Limited (KMRL).
Tussle between KSEB and KMRL
“Due to the organisational hassle between KMRL and KSEB, the footpath development is still pending near Kaloor Market. The pathway near PVS Hospital is the responsibility of the PWD. As there are issues with KWA and water clogging under the bridge, the work will take time. The tender process is yet to begin,” said M G Aristotle, councillor, Kaloor Division.
People are feeling the pang. “When will they stop blaming each other and actually commence the work. We have problems with the drain here. Even minor works take a long time,” says Paulose, a petrol pump manager in Kaloor.
Unavailability of parking spaces is another issue. “We have no other option other than parking on the footpath. At times, Motor Vehicle Department (MVD) officials book us with a penalty. As long as they couldn’t provide a proper parking space, we are left with no option,” said Joshua, student. Many auto driver say even they resort to encroaching footpaths to park their vehicles.
Major reports in cold storage
Although NATPAC submitted the masterplan on the non-motorised transport in the city, nothing has progressed so far.
“We have submitted the report to the Town Planning Department almost two years ago. But no further discussion has happened after that. In between, we have completed another study on non-motorable transport for KMRL. If both of them are implemented properly, every issue pertaining in Kochi’s transportation will get resolved,” said S Shaheem, principal scientist NATPAC.
The corporation authorities are pinning their hopes on the central government-funded ‘Amrut’ project. P M Harris, chairman of the standing committee said, “We are developing the arterial roads under Amrut Project. For the wider roads, we are utilising projects like Amrut to improve the pathway standards. Apart from the extension of Kaloor-Kathrikadavu and the west side of S K Road, we have taken many PWD roads including the Jose Junction - Menaka Phase of MG Road for transforming the walkways under the project.”
“Earlier, Public works department (PWD) has unscientifically built the roads in Metro’s stretches across the city. Most of those footpaths which have been beautified by laying tiles did not have any manholes. As we learned many lessons from it, the ongoing projects are being done scientifically. We have completed almost 65% of walkway development project under Amrut and the remaining works are on progress will complete by three months.” added Harris.
- Various organisations working to develop the healthy living in the city demanded action for developing walkways, but nothing has happened yet.
- They plan a great pedestrian march on October 2 in the city, said Arun, representative of Cochin Orthopedic Society.
Cycle tracks still on paper
Lack of enthusiasm on the side of authorities in developing cycle tracks is affecting the trend of using bicycles in the city. “Other than the Panampilly Nagar phase, no other cycle tracks are available in the city. Unless there are dedicated cycle track, we cannot expect people to take up the habit. The existing customers are buying them only for leisure purpose, not for commuting.
Although the trend of offering insurance for the cyclist is picking up, the sale is dull in post-flood days. As we are organising the monthly activities to usher interest among youngsters, we expect the same from authorities as well,” said Abraham Clancy Ross, owner of The Bike Store, Kaloor.