That appears to be the heart of the ongoing debate in the city. With land becoming increasingly scarce on what were once broad public thoroughfares, a move to beautify the space beneath flyovers has run into controversy. On the one hand, there is a proposal to aesthetically enhance these spaces and also provide for some long-felt needs of public conveniences there. On the other hand, there is the view that the area ought to be utilised for car parking.
An NGO and a consulting agency have together submitted a proposal for better utilisation of public spaces. The aim is to make the use of roads an aesthetic experience. The idea is to use the space for toilets, cold drink vending stations, an art show or two and, above all, space for pedestrians to walk on. Steps will be taken to prevent illegal use of the area and preserve it as planned. There will also be spaces for cycle stands, parking facilities for police vehicles and ambulances, and the lighting for these spaces will be through solar power. The Corporation, it is learnt, has agreed to the proposal and plans to implement it on 70 roads and five flyovers.
The State Highways Department, however, begs to disagree. In its view the land below the flyovers belongs to it and, therefore, it is proposing the fencing off of these areas for its own use. It has even erected offices for its Projects Division below one of the flyovers. Making over these areas for public use will also hinder maintenance work, according to the Department.
A third body of opinion holds the view that the land ought to be given to vendors and small shops. This argument is based on the fact that when flyovers were erected, they took over the sidewalks, traditionally the space on which these traders thrived. While not disputing that the land belongs to the Highways Department, they feel that they ought to be allowed to use it, by way of compensation for what they lost.
And lastly, there are the ubiquitous car and two-wheeler owners who, in the absence of parking space in their own offices and homes, feel these should be made over for the use of parking vehicles.
In short, there is no dearth of opinions on the subject, all of them in conflict with each other.
It may be best that the spaces are handed over for utilitarian purposes, which could be pedestrian usage, public conveniences and parking of ambulances, police vans and private vehicles. Certainly, beautification is the last requirement, especially in a city like ours where the idea of what constitutes beautification is strange, to say the least. Secondly, our track record of maintaining such ‘beautified’ spots is not something we can be proud of.
After much fanfare in inaugurating these projects, we rarely tend to them afterwards. What we need is practical planning and then effective implementation. If that gets going, beautification can then follow.