CHENNAI: Sidestepping the issue of encroachments on pavements in the city, the Chennai Corporation has blamed it on the mindset of city dwellers as the reason behind the issue.
Speaking to City Express, Corporation officials said that monitoring encroachments on city sidewalks presented a different crisis to the civic body as it was neither adequately staffed nor funded enough to carry out the activity. They added that as a result, their efforts to provide pedestrian-friendly footpaths were going in vain.
“Even if we make a footpath disabled-friendly, what is the use when fellow citizens use it to ride bikes and park vehicles on them? Civic sense is lacking in the city dwellers. How many would actually dare to question the person who rides his vehicle on the footpath?” asked an official.
Officials cited an instance on Sterling Road. After a review of the footpath facility on Sterling Road, it was decided to put up bollards to prevent motorists from riding vehicles on the sidewalk when the traffic chokes up. After the bollards were put up, residents in the area complained that senior citizens on wheelchairs were unable to move about freely as the bollards were hindering their movement.
“When the bollards were realigned, it provided enough space for bikers to go between them. And now, the situation is back to square one,” said an official.
While the Corporation has hired guards to prevent parking on the model footpath in Besant Nagar, officials said that it was not practical to do so for every footpath in the city. But, the Corporation, which has an online facility that enables residents to complain about sidewalk encroachments, is doing little to even attend to such complaints.
The website, as of Monday, has clocked nearly 200 complaints, all of which have been unattended. Activists suggested that it exposes the Corporation’s lackadaisical approach. A member of the Disability Rights Alliance Smitha Sadasivan told CE that it is high time the option of penalising offenders is brought in place.
“There is a need to sensitise people on the negatives of encroaching on pedestrian space. The Corporation need not wash its hands off the issue. The State Government itself has to direct its administrative bodies to comply with the government order passed in February 2013, which called for all public buildings to be made disabled-friendly,” said Smitha. “Even the Ripon building is unfriendly for the disabled. Inclusive thinking is lacking in the society and these can be addressed away only through rigorous awareness campaigns,” she added.