How proactive citizens stalled shoddy pavement work in Besant Nagar

Large stretches of pavement were dug up and young trees uprooted by the GCC between Theosophical Society and Olcott School to make way for bicycle lanes. Citizens put up strong resistance and have forced authorities to rethink the project.

On the evening of Saturday, March 31st, the residents of Besant Nagar were taken aback when large stretches of perfectly laid pavements, between Theosophical Society and Olcott School, interspersed with young trees protected by tree guards, were dug up and uprooted by a crew from the Greater Chennai Corporation.

When they asked what the work was about, and who had ordered it, they were told that the Bus Route Roads (BRR) department of the Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC), had a plan to widen the pavements and provide bicycle lanes. But why break perfectly good stretches when there are so many bus route roads in the city that are crying out for pavements that can help ensure greater pedestrian safety? And most importantly from a transparency perspective, why start the work on the evening of the last day of the financial year?

Corporation workers demolishing the recently laid pavement at Besant Nagar. Credits: T D Babu

The citizens of the area, and indeed of many parts of Zone 13, led by Spark members like  Dr T D Babu,  Kamakshi Paati, Ramakrishnan and Pattu Chandrashekhar, requested the officials of GCC Zone 13, to help them meet the officials from  BRR department, who were in charge of the work. When contacted, the officials from BRR agreed to meet with the residents’ representatives, at the site of the work, with the plans, on Monday morning. BRR officials, Ward officials from 176, the architectural consultants to the project and the contractor executing the work, came to meet the group of about 20 citizens from the area.

Dr Babu says, “We came to know that they had plans to broaden the pavement along Besant Avenue, from Olcott School to Adyar Signal. This would have significantly reduced the carriage width of this road, and within the reduced carriage width they wanted to include an exclusive cycling track. They had dug the current pavement to put readymade ducts for cables, but just last month new cables had been laid by digging up the road!”

Corporation Workers dug open the recently laid Road at Besant Nagar. Credits: T D Babu

The citizens highlighted the following concerns with the officials:

Two years ago, pavements along Rajaji Bhavan were removed, ostensibly to provide better pavements, but that work has still not been completed.

Local ward engineers, who are in regular touch with the residents of the area, were not aware of the work being undertaken by the BRR department  As a result, there was no information or warning to the community, or consultation with the community about the need for such a project.

The locals had adopted stretches of the pavement for regrowing trees, as this stretch has seen the loss of a great many trees during Vardah. Many of those young trees, carefully nurtured and protected with tree guards, were damaged by the JCB as it dug up the pavement in the evening light.

Citizens have a talk with the corporation official at Besant Nagar. Credits: Geeta Padmanabhan

Meanwhile, the BRR department has agreed to stop the work and  restore the pavements and tree guards that were damaged on Saturday. They have also agreed to come back with a revised plan for discussion with citizens’ representatives and the local community.

One of the officials was overheard  saying that in no other area did people question the implementation of government projects, hence they never thought of asking the local community.“Only here we face such unique voices from the community while execution!”

He raises a very important point, which is echoed by Charu Govindan, an active citizen of this area and member of Voice Of People (a citizens’ group). “Why do we citizens not involve ourselves in projects of common interest? Why do we not step out when the road is being laid, to check if it was milled before being relaid? Why do we keep our houses so clean, but our streets and common spaces so dirty?”

The resident representatives of Besant Nagar hope to show the city the way towards greater cooperation between the government and the public , where roads, pavements and other infrastructure projects are concerned. After all, it is Namma Chennai, isn’t it?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Similar Story

City Buzz: Veggie prices soar | Heavy rains disrupt Mumbai life… and more

In other news: Upgrades in weather forecast systems, green funds for road repair, just 41% of satellite town schemes done and Smart Cities deadline extended.

Vegetable prices soar Several factors have pushed up vegetable prices and inflation in cities. Extreme weather conditions and soaring temperatures resulted in a poor harvest this season, with some crops destroyed due to excess water accumulation in the fields. In addition, prices surged because of the ongoing wedding season. Retailers said that they did not bring many vegetables to the markets, because of concerns that they would suffer losses if consumer demand remained low. Hence, prices of onions, tomatoes and potatoes, which are staples in every kitchen, shot up due to heavy floods and extreme heat. The wholesale prices of all three…

Similar Story

Noise, dust and traffic: Coping with redevelopment in neighbourhoods

The redevelopment boom in Mumbai has significant consequences for neighbourhoods. How are citizens impacted and what can they do?

“I have got a lung infection because of the dust. Even at home I try to keep my windows shut. A lot of redevelopment is happening near my home as well as office,” says Rohini Vij, an HR professional at a fast food chain. Her workplace in Prabhadevi is undergoing renovation and refurbishment work, and what makes working even more difficult is the redevelopment of buildings around. She says the noise and dust are affecting their productivity. It does not help that it is the same situation in the area where she lives in Bandra. Rohini is among the many…