THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Shrinking footpaths, cluttered pavements, illegal parking and clogged drains have left pedestrians in Thiruvananthapuram frustrated. And the upcoming monsoon season is likely to make the situation worse. Almost every stretch in the capital has been taken over by hawkers and vendors, forcing the pedestrians to walk on the carriage way. The ongoing smart road construction works taken up by the Smart City Thiruvananthapuram Ltd (SCTL), which is progressing at a snails’ pace, would also add to woes of the public.
As usual, officials -- of the city corporation as well as the district administration -- have been turning a blind eye towards the common man’s troubles. For instance, the number of street vendors has multiplied following the pandemic dip. East Fort, Medical College, Statue Junction, Chalai, Kesavadasapuram and Thycaud are some of the areas where encroachments are high.
Only 10 per cent of the roads have footpaths widths over 1.2m on both sides According to a study by the National Transportation Planning and Research Centre (NATPAC) in 2016, only 60 per cent of the major road corridors in the heart of the city have footpaths. Of the total 534km of roads selected for the study, only 10 per cent of the roads had footpaths with width of 1.2m on both sides.
Pedestrian movements were found to be high (3,538 during rush hour) at the East Fort arm of Overbridge Junction, one of the encroachment hot spots. Chalai to East Fort Junction recorded around 3,001 movements and Padmanabha theatre arm of East Fort, about 2,500. President of the Federation of Residents’ Association Thiruvananthapuram (FRAT), M S Venugopal, warned that people’s lives were at risk. “There is absolutely no space for pedestrians on the road. The roads are turning into death traps,” he said.
He added that the corporation should take steps to renovate the market places and set up more space to rehabilitate the pavement traders and allow free pedestrian movement. Experts, meanwhile, slammed the lack of strict law enforcement. Principal scientist and head of NATPAC’s transportation planning and engineering division Shaheem S noted that accidents involving pedestrians were not being meticulously recorded. “These accidents happen because of encroachment. The authorities should take action against the violators,” he said. “They should also do something about clogged drains and waterlogging issues.”
Corporation officials, meanwhile, said they had limitations to take action against street vendors. Though the civic body had initiated steps to give identity cards for the street vendors, the initiative reached nowhere. As per a corporation survey, there are at least 5,000 traditional street vendors in the city. “There are laws which mandates the protection of the livelihood of street vendors, and we cannot remove them,” said an official. “Street hawking and vending have gone up after the pandemic subsided. We take action when there is a complaint or the encroachment is a threat to pedestrians.”
Road safety expert Anil Kumar Pandala pointed out that the district Road Safety Committee was inactive. “There is no system in place to monitor these violations,” added the former managing director of Trivandrum Road Development Corporation Ltd.
“Thiruvananthapuram is one city which has continuous and defined footpaths. The footpaths are encroached by mobile food-trucks, a gross violation of the Motor Vehicles Act. Government departments, too, have been violating rules by installing e-toilets on footpaths and undertaking construction activities encroaching them.” Anil Kumar highlighted illegal parking as another issue plaguing Thiruvananthapuram. “Many people park their vehicles on curbsides, encroaching footpaths. Such violations often get neglected,” he added.