But how well will it be implemented?
At long last, the Corporation of Chennai has come up with an innovative and creative budget that looks beyond flyovers and placating car owners. In a marked departure from the past, this year’s budget has several noteworthy features, all of which the city desperately needs if it is to survive. While agreeing that the plan looks good on paper, we hope that much of it will translate into reality, making way for a cleaner and greener Chennai.
For the first time, pedestrians and public transport have received due attention. A particularly commendable idea is the creation of pedestrian zones in Mylapore, T’Nagar and Chepauk. The last named will also extend around the short-lived Secretariat-cum-Assembly complex that is now well on its way to becoming a super-speciality hospital. The plan also provides for public transport access from these pedestrian zones. The footpath which, together with pedestrians, was an endangered species in our city, is also likely to make a comeback. The budget recognises the need for walkways and has committed to building them along arterial roads and flyovers. The latter in particular have been the cause for footpaths to vanish. It is now proposed that granite footpaths be laid along 100 bus routes.
Transport system through means that do not consume fossil fuels has been recognised for the first time in the budget. Cycle travel is being given a boost. There is a move for cycle lanes and a cycle route of 7 km is being planned which will connect Fort Station, Fort St George and Foreshore Estate, taking in the Marina en route. More importantly, a scheme of shared cycles has been thought of. This is not new and had flourished in the city at least till the abolition of trams. Under this scheme, cycles could be hired on alighting from trains and used in the locality on payment of a fee. They will have to be returned at the time of boarding trains on completion of errands. This is being revived all along the MRTS corridors and is being planned along the Metro routes as well, as a non-motorised means of last mile connectivity.
Going green has been taken seriously, it would appear. While committing to the maintenance of the existing parks (which itself is a departure from practice, as most of the parks were created by the previous regime), the budget aims at helping create 100 new parks. It also plans to establish rainwater harvesting in all parks and promote drip irrigation for the maintenance of the greenery. The use of solar energy for public lighting has also been adopted as a matter of policy.
Lastly, the issue of parking, which has been a long-standing matter, has received due attention with the creation of a parking cell. It is understood that this body will look into matters such as parking fee, allocation of spaces, congestion fee for areas such as T’Nagar, and monitor usage of public space by private parties. The cell will also look at ways and means of putting the space beneath flyovers to good use.
Civic hygiene has also been addressed with a commitment to get public fixtures regularly washed, though where the water for this is going to come from is certain to be a matter of concern. Solid waste management schemes are also on the anvil.
Overall, this budget would get a rating of “A”. But question remains as to how much of this will make into actual practice. Footpath creation, for instance, recognises the need for removing encroachments. When political parties are the most visible offenders with their ‘temporary’ hoardings, will there be a political will to see this through?
Secondly, how can granite footpaths survive if they are to be frequently dug up for fixing poles that hold aloft political party banners? How is the Corporation going to handle opposition from the commercial establishments around the proposed pedestrian zones? This lobby has thus far successfully stalled even temporary pedestrianisation during festivals and special occasions.
Thirdly, most of these schemes require a long-term vision. Has the opposition committed itself to these schemes and will they continue to be implemented even if there is a change in regime?
These are questions that the Corporation will need to ponder about if the budget is to become reality.