Poor state of Chennai’s public infrastructure must be fixed before cosmetic makeover

Footpaths, roads, parks, walls - all suffer from damage and neglect in Chennai. GCC must focus on fixing them before creating new infrastructure.

Infrastructure has been a focus area in recent budgets of the Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC), with allocations running into crores. But a quick look around us shows the broken state of many of these structures be it footpaths or play equipment in parks. 

Fixing existing deficiencies in public infrastructure before the creation of new ones will prevent the cycle of neglect and decay. The civic body must take steps to ensure that the existing infrastructure is repaired and its upkeep regular. 

Instead of taking the people living in the neighbourhoods into confidence, plans for future infrastructure are also being undertaken after obtaining suggestions from the local officials and enforcement agencies.  

Footpaths damaged across Chennai

The state of footpaths on many Chennai roads is a cause for concern. Another striking aspect is that the standards regarding height, width and materials to be used are not adopted uniformly across the city. 

This is evident by the number of footpaths I have encountered which have been topped with granite slabs. While this might be considered a cosmetic makeover, it is an entirely unjustifiable use of public funds. 

The granite makes the surface slippery, posing danger to pedestrians. Not to mention these slabs are often subject to theft or are easily broken, leaving the footpaths unusable. 

In areas such as Thirvalluvar Road in Thiruvanmiyur and Jawaharlal Nehru Road in Vadapalani, the granite toppings have also been dislodged, causing great inconvenience to pedestrians.

granite slab on footpath
Granite topping of footpaths is a wasteful expense. Pic: Raghukumar Choodamani

A basic footpath made out of concrete would have served the purpose and the money saved could have been used for developing roads in areas where there are no footpaths or properly paved roads for that matter. 

Granite topping of footpaths must be abandoned by the civic body in favour of a more practical and cost-saving approach.

Read more: What makes a good pedestrian-friendly footpath?

Park and play areas in Chennai

Many parks across the city have broken play equipment that has not been repaired. We also see adults using play equipment meant for children, leading to their breaking down. An example of this was spotted in our neighbourhood in Perambur where adults used swings meant for children in Murasoli Maran Park and left them broken. It took over a month of complaints for the Parks department of the GCC to address the issue.

The civic body must put up notice boards within the play area asking adults to refrain from using the play equipment meant for the children across parks in Chennai.

chennai parks
Seat of a swing has been broken in Murasoli Maran Park. Pic: Raghukumar Choodamani

The open gym areas in parks in the city also suffer from neglect. Little is being done to maintain the gadgets installed within the park. Whenever the bearings get worn out, the visitors are forced to lodge several petitions with the local officials and escalate the matter to the higher authorities before its restored. Maintenance should be a continuous process and those who are responsible for maintaining the park need to closely monitor the defects and do the needful.  

Inspections must be carried out by the authorities to ensure maintenance instead of awaiting complaints from the public. 

Damaged roads a common sight in Chennai

Despite the news that allocations have been made to relay many roads and repair the damage caused by stormwater drain construction, roads continue to be in a poor state across the city. 

Shoddy SWD construction on Rajaji Avenue 1st Main Road in Valsaravakkam has ruined the entire stretch of the road. One of the silt catch pits in this street can be found right in the middle of the road. The grill over the silt catch pit had gone missing and the pit was lying open,  making it a safety hazard both for the pedestrians and the commuters on two-wheelers. 

open pit on chennai roads
Open pits are a common sight and pose threats to motorists. Pic: Raghukumar Choodamani

There are hundreds if not thousands of such open silt catch pits, manhole chambers and potholes across the city which are a constant threat leading to many accidents.

Resurfacing of roads, and fixing covers over manholes and silt-catch pits must be done on priority. But the response to such complaints from the civic body has been disheartening, with no clear timeline being provided on when the city’s roads will become usable. 

Read more: Why road milling work calls for active involvement of Chennai citizens

Graffiti and posters across Chennai

Graffiti and wall posters have become an eyesore across the city. Posters of movies and those put up by political parties dot the walls across Chennai.

When the laws of the land are very clear, we are left wondering why the Disfigurement Act of 1959 is not being invoked to rein in the culprits.  

chennai wall posters
Many public walls have been taken over by wall posters and graffiti. Pic: Raghukumar Choodamani

A clear policy with regard to wall posters must be formulated with strict enforcement. Walls of government buildings and public spaces must instead be used to advertise schemes launched by the government. 

Those who deface walls with posters and graffiti can be penalised to deter others from doing the same. 

From the state of existing public infrastructure in the city, it is clear that the GCC does not have enough resources for repair or maintenance. At the same time, the civic body process to make allocations in the budget for laying new roads, constructing new fountains, digging ponds, building bridges, and fixing stainless steel street signboards or granite slabs on footpaths.

The civic body must refrain from opting for projects that provide a cosmetic makeover to the city and focus on addressing problems that affect the daily life of residents. A quick walk around your neighbourhood will make this home truth about our city evident. 

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  1. Kamala Venkatraman says:

    Need of the hour Sir.Residents have no walking path. All important roads are given a huge lift…at what cost.
    Let us be realistic. Not make a show..to be like foreign countries
    This cannot happen unless the old repair works are attended to
    The cosmetic structures will crumble..sooner than done. The pedestrian walkways to be attended in right erenst.
    Humble salutations!

  2. Sickandar says:

    I have not seen any relaying of damaged roads in Chennai for the past two years. My hope of seeing a good administration is now zero.

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