One of the older and more populous neighbourhoods, T Nagar is at the focus of several initiatives under the smart cities mission in the city, with many of smart city projects dedicated to its improvement. However, in a case of what is called missing the forest for the trees, a skywalk proposed to decongest the busy Ranganathan street may merely end up creating new infrastructure that most residents deem unnecessary.
A safety hazard in the making
When one talks of encroachment of public places, T Nagar stands as a prime example. Ranganathan Street which is a 30-feet road, has been reduced to a mere 10 feet due to encroachment by shops and commercial establishments on both sides of the street. Besides the shoppers, many others use Ranganathan Street as an entry to and exit from the Mambalam Railway Station. While it is a Herculean task to pass the street even on a normal day, on day of festivals and holidays, it is almost impossible to navigate the street from one end to the other. Apart from the myriad shops that have been set up and the people who use the street, stray cattle too can be seen running amok.
Adding to this, many shops and establishments in the street do not have proper fire safety systems. Should there be an accident of any sort, emergency services like ambulances, fire tenders will not be able to make it to the street because of the dense encroachment. This is the alarming reality faced by thousands who use the road everyday and those who make a living on it.
With such dangers faced by the people who use and reside in Ranganathan Street, one wonders why the Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) remains unconcerned. Instead of launching a massive operation to remove the encroachment on Ranganathan Street and the nearby Railway Border Road that faces a similar fate, the GCC has come up with a project to construct a skywalk connecting Mambalam Railway Station and the T Nagar Bus Stand. The GCC is of the view that the proposed skywalk will relieve the public of the trouble of navigating through the ever-busy Ranganathan Street. But how much congestion will be eased by the proposed skywalk remains to be seen. The solution also does not address the issue of encroachment and loss of a large section of the road, which has been the case for decades and has remained unaddressed.
Delay and escalating costs
It must also be mentioned that the skywalk which was to be constructed by the GCC out of its own funds earlier was budgeted at a cost of Rs 22 crores. Due to financial crunch, the GCC could not proceed further. When the smart city project was proposed, the GCC included the skywalk project under the scheme. The estimated present outlay has increased by Rs 10 crore to around Rs 32 crore. While on this, it is important to ask what is the guarantee that the skywalk will not meet with the same fate as Ranganathan Street over a period of time with regard to encroachments and neglect?
When the GCC is unable to take up critical works like road-relaying, construction of storm water drains due to non-availability of funds, spending Rs 32 crore on a project which is unnecessary and avoidable makes no sense. The huge amount can be gainfully used on other pressing projects. Instead, the GCC should make concerted efforts to remove encroachments on Ranganathan Street and Railway Border Road on a permanent basis to ease the congestion and remove any safety hazards for the people.