Non-motorised policy in Chennai hits a roadblock

Non Motorised Transport policy was adopted as a council resolution in September 2014.

Chennai: First they gave us wider footpaths. Now, the city corporation may bring a JCB to destroy it and widen the road.

If one is to go by rumours swirling on the Ripon Buildings premises, it would appear that the Greater Chennai Corporation is quietly distancing itself from Non-Motorised Transport (NMT) policy, a cause it had championed not so long ago.

Corporation officials, preferring anonymity, told DC that after a new commissioner took charge, there has been a marked difference in the priority afforded to NMT related projects.

“Even the NGOs associated with these projects like ITDP, City Connect and others are now out of favour. The staff have been instructed to keep them waiting if they came around to meet,” said an official.

This was confirmed by one of the NGO representatives who said that they were intimated to meet the commissioner during regular visitor hours, instead of getting an appointment henceforth.

The previous commissioner Vikram Kapur, who is now managing director at the Chennai Metro Water Board, was known to meet with representatives of these agencies regularly and would pursue the implementation of projects under NMT like wider footpaths for pedestrians and cycle tracks.

Sources in the know told DC that the new boss ‘did not come across as someone who believes in NMT.’ “He is very open about it. Chennai doesn’t need footpaths is what he maintains. In such cases, beyond a point, it becomes very hard to reason even though you know the person is wrong,” a source said.

The source added that a few NGOs met Kapur to vent out their frustration at this change in the scheme of things. The former commissioner was reportedly ‘upset at the goings on’ in the Ripon Buildings because all of a sudden everyone had ‘stopped caring’. When contacted by DC, Kapur refused to comment.

Others attributed the unwillingness to commit to footpaths, and NMT in particular, to lacking in desire to regulate vending in the city. “With wider footpaths, there will be vendors occupying space. They think it is better to not have footpaths so as to simply not deal with the problem. But the ineffectiveness of corporation officials should not mean pedestrians don’t have the right to walk,” said a source.

Though he refused to comment on the issue, Raj Cherubal of the Chennai City Connect told DC that the new commissioner was a very practical man and that he has also asked them to furnish more data on the success of these footpath projects, so that its results can be studied for replication.

Senior officials maintained that there was no such decision to drop NMT-related projects. “The election code of conduct is now enforced in city. So, we cannot take up new projects. Whatever has already been initiated will be completed and post-elections, all NMT projects will be completed,” an official said.

Harrington Road ok, Egmore Not ok?

Just what went wrong for the corporation higher-ups to consider putting off the ambitious Non Motorised Transport Policy?

“Pedestrians are not the only stakeholders on a road. The travelling commuters ought to be given space as well. For instance, on Harrington Road, the footpath has well served the community but the same cannot be said on Police Commissioner’s Office Road in Egmore, where vehicles have to nudge each other for the extra space,” said a senior official.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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