Some suggested birthday resolutions for Chennai Corporation
The Corporation of Chennai or CoC as it styles itself these days in news reports, celebrated its 320th birth anniversary recently. Conventional wisdom may argue that the figure 320 is rather an odd one for a celebration, for such events are usually associated with multiples of 25, with 60 being an odd one out that is internationally accepted. Be that as it may, and considering that elections to the civic body fall due before the 325th anniversary, there may be good reasons for the celebration. We at Madras Musings welcome any celebration involving such a historic institution.
The events that comprised the celebrations however had hardly anything to do with the principal purpose of the CoC, namely that of providing a clean and effective civic administration. There were folk dances by students of Corporation run schools, some prominent residents of the city were felicitated (did their achievements have any contribution from the Corporation?), a film on the Corporation was screened and a souvenir was released. There was one intriguing announcement in at least one city based daily which said that the “Marina Beach is the second best in the whole world and after the present beautification is over it would be the best”. How such gradations are measured is a mystery. One commendable effort was the release of new uniforms for the civic staff. These garments are said to be specially designed for the weather conditions in Chennai.
An exhibition of photographs depicting the city’s past and present was inaugurated. This correspondent has not seen it, but the list of photographs as given out in newspaper reports shows that these are probably the same ones that regularly do the rounds on the internet. While it is all well to celebrate the past and the present, but the CoC would do well to ponder over the future of the city and here are some suggested resolutions for it to adopt:
- More pedestrian space: All over the city there are hardly any pedestrian spaces left. Footpaths have been hijacked by junction boxes of the Telephones Department and transformers of the Electricity Board. Whatever is left has encroachments including political flag posts. In many roads, there are no footpaths at all, thanks to a decision to remove them to increase the space available for flyovers. Recently a walk was held by a forum committed to demanding more space for pedestrians. Before this becomes a full-fledged revolution, can the Corporation please wake up?
- Public Toilets: There is a feeling that any location in this city can double up as a public toilet. Street corners, space behind trees and compound walls of residences and offices; all of these are considered convenient spots. The absence of public conveniences is the main reason for this. Can we please have more and also better maintenance of those that are available?
- More public transport: A recent study by the IIT has said that usage of public transport has diminished in the city and the trend is more towards encouraging people to use their own cars and two-wheelers. This is alarming and is quite the reverse of what is happening in most cities of the world where the first step towards decongestion is by enhancing public transport.
- Better methods of waste disposal: The present dumps at Kodungaiyur and Perungudi have overflowed and are most unscientific in their methods of disposal. The residents of these areas have protested repeatedly about the presence of these landfills in their vicinity. Can we have some discussions and plans on waste disposal?
- Proactive vigilance on building violations: The recent fire mishap that took place at a prominent shopping mall in T Nagar was directly attributed to plan violations at the time of building. Indeed, the entire T Nagar shopping area is a showcase of plan violations all of which could have been nipped in the bud at the construction stage itself. While we are aware that it is the CMDA that sanctions and approves plans, it is up to the CoC to monitor it. Can we have some preventive action rather than knee jerk reactions?
- A serious study on the viability of flyovers: The CoC has wholeheartedly embraced flyovers as the panacea for all traffic ills. But it would be worth its while to debate on this issue. Flyovers, given the space in which they are put up, do not allow for buses to go on them and so are exclusively meant for private transport. This naturally means public transport will be slow and will therefore not be used. The space below the flyovers is completely wasted as it is closed to prevent encroachments. These need to be opened up if road space is to be used effectively. The latest flyover, in the Usman Road area is a disaster in every way, with shops coming up below it and thereby clogging the narrow side roads. Lastly, flyovers only speed up traffic on them. They result in two bottlenecks, one at the beginning and the other at the end of the flyover. All these need to be looked at before fresh flyovers are planned.
- Public debates on plans: Can the public be taken into confidence when new plans are announced for beautification, road widening and other such exercises? And when the public is consulted, can their viewpoints be recorded and acted upon?
- More focus on North Chennai: Can the south be given its due status even as the north is also looked at for development and improvements?