Walking not at all an easy task in Delhi’s neighbourhoods
The neighbourhood’s pavements have gradually merged with car parking, garden strips, guard boxes and cemented driveways, among others.Updated: Mar 06, 2019 01:22 IST
36-year-old Sharda Singh, employed as a domestic help in Shantiniketan, one of Delhi’s most upscale neighbourhoods, doesn’t let her children walk home from school through the internal road. She takes a break, picks them up every day, drops them home and goes back to work. They have to walk on the road because there are no pathways available and she fears a vehicle may hit them.
The well-guarded and gated colony in south Delhi, with barriers at each entry and exit, and houses lined with trees, is a beautiful residential space if one overlooks the fact that there is no room for pedestrians to walk.
The neighbourhood’s pavements have gradually merged with car parking, garden strips, guard boxes and cemented driveways, among others.
The footpath on a service lane adjoining the main road on Rao Tula Ram (RTR) Marg has been reduced to half by an iron mesh, making it look like an extended part of the colony. The storm water drain slabs, left open to allow rain water to reach inside, are covered with heavy earthen pots by residents.
On the streets inside, in the centre of the colony, footpaths have been taken over by cars. Bang opposite, black signboards put up by the Shantiniketan Residential Association read — ‘No Parking at All Times’.
“Even though the roads are broad, between garden strips, guard boxes and parked cars, this is a pavement-free colony, where it’s difficult to walk freely down the roads,” said Sevanti Ninan, a resident of Shantiniketan.
In Vasant Vihar, in south Delhi, which also houses embassies, pavements can hardly be seen.
On Poorvi Marg, the approach road leading up to the colony, cars and other utilities cover the footpath, leaving no space for pedestrians. Right outside, on the main road, where a flyover parallel to the existing RTR is under construction, pavements have been broken and debris lie on the roadside.
On street A-9, commercial activities such as a private medical facility have devoured the pavement.
In the inner streets, almost every other house has extended its front to the pavement. At some locations, gates have been erected at entry-exit points of the back lanes, turning them into a personal area to store utilities such as generators, boxes, etc.
“There is no room for pedestrians. Several incidents of people being hit by vehicles have been reported. We have repeatedly written to the municipality. They assured to remove encroachments but nothing has been done,” Suresh Goel, a resident and former RWA president, Vasant Vihar, said.
A senior official of the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) said not all colonies can be provided with footpaths as road width differs and space has to be left on either side for storm water drains and a carriageway of at least seven metres.
“Since the corporations have roads less than 60 feet under their jurisdiction, providing footpaths in all colonies is not possible. Though parking of cars on pavement is encroachment of public land, it is a matter of larger public policy that people be provided with adequate parking space. It is only now that the Delhi Master Plan has provision for stilt parking in residential buildings. But for all the old constructions, vehicles are parked outside. We do carry out demolition drives and remove other structures regularly,” the official said.
The government must come up with high parking charges and make it a must for owners to have a parking space before a new vehicle is registered. Besides, proper planning for the future in the Master Plan is the key, he said.
The Draft Delhi Parking Policy had proposed a parking fee in residential areas, which was later struck down.
In other parts, such as east Delhi’s Krishna Nagar and Laxmi Nagar, shopkeepers and cars, including abandoned vehicles, have laid siege to pavements.
B S Vohra, a resident of Krishna Nagar and president, East Delhi RWAs Joint Forum, said, “The ground has been levelled to park cars while small-time shops have encroached on walking space, storing items such as mannequins. We ask councillors to take action every time there is a meeting. They do get a drive conducted for two-three days, after which it is the same again. It is dangerous, in particular, for the children and the elderly.”
The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) had in 2009 conducted a study on how walkable Indian cities are and recommended that civic bodies must implement walkability audits of pedestrian ways.
“Delhi adopted street design guidelines in its existing master plan but has not implemented it. People’s spaces are being grossly violated. The government must make these guidelines legally enforceable. Besides, it must notify parking rules, which in addition to pricing will demarcate legal parking places,” said Anumita Roy Chowdhury, executive director, research and advocacy, CSE. She was part of Delhi government’s parking policy committee.
City-based architect, Moulshri Joshi, said there was a need to manage street activities such as bus stops, street vendors, hawkers, pedestrians, etc.
SDMC mayor Narendra Chawla, said, “Pedestrians’ right of way must be protected. The corporation carries out demolition drives regularly. But the population influx is too much. Larger public participation is crucial to achieve this. The Delhi government did not let us increase one-time parking charges. They haven’t let out our funds, because of which plans to build multi-level parkings in residential areas could not be worked out.”