CHENNAI:Fifty-two-year-old Vijayalakshmi Chandrashekar has been a resident of Besant Nagar for more that four decades. Nevertheless, when she recollects her halcyon days spent on the beach, she becomes a touch nostalgic. The once lovely and beautiful Besant Nagar, where she used to sit and gossip with other young married women, has now become hell for her. “I have hardly been to the beach six times in the past one year,” she tells us with dejection.
She and a few residents of Besant Nagar to whom City Express spoke to, say that one of the major reasons for Besant Nagar having lost its beauty and old charm is the ridiculously large number of vehicles that are parked haphazardly on the Elliot’s Promenade, leaving little space for people to walk. “One can find stalls even on the footpath. They are not only a hindrance to those who wish to go on a walk, but also lead to accumulation of garbage,” adds V Chandrasekar, a resident of Besant Nagar and a visiting faculty at the Anna University.
In light of an online petition asking people to vote for a vehicle-free Besant Nagar on Sunday mornings — one that will be presented to the Corporation soon — some of them rue that vehicles shouldn’t be allowed at all. “Two-wheelers should be banned, police patrolling should be increased, dogs should be relocated, eateries on the beach should be banished and film shootings should be stopped,” says a frustrated Vijayalakshmi.
T S Swaminathan, a former IAS officer, laments that it has become difficult for him to go out without being accompanied by somebody. “Drunken driving is a major problem,” he says, adding that 50 per cent of the promenade is unavailable for walkers. “We are not against parking, but there must be a system in place,” he says. “Why not introduce terrace parking?” suggests V Chandran, who runs an online magazine. “There are a lot of senior citizens who like walking along the beach. During weekends, they are unable to go out due to rash driving and parking chaos,” he adds.
However, a few youngsters feel that Elliot’s Beach, by far, is the most organised among other beaches as far as parking is concerned. Though they agree that it has become increasingly difficult for people to walk on the promenade, they say that taking small measures like asking the stall owners to set it up elsewhere can provide a viable solution, thereby allowing people to walk freely on the footpath. “There are people who come with their family to Elliot’s beach, and if they have a car, they would prefer commuting in it. One can’t say that vehicles should not to be parked at all,” says Ganesh Ram, who takes gymnastics classes on the beach and commutes by a two-wheeler. “Most of us see our own convenience. We park the vehicle on the promenade in order to get into the beach. Why not park it elsewhere, without causing a hindrance to walkers, and walk the extra mile ourselves?” adds Nitin Kapahi, who stays near Elliot’s Beach.
Meanwhile Chandrasekar, who is the president of Senior Citizens group of Besant Nagar (SCGOBN), tells City Express that the group is already working towards launching a movement called Please Provide Pavements for Pedestrians (PPP). “Through the movement, we wish to sensitise the authorities concerned on the importance of pavements for pedestrians in Chennai. As part of the movement, we will be holding awareness programmes in schools and colleges, on road safety and importance of pavements,” he says, adding that the group will first begin with Besant Nagar where the newly laid pavements have been occupied by vendors.