Friday, October 02, 2009

More encroachments take root

More encroachments take root

In most upscale layouts and upcoming areas, residents have extended lawns and gardens on to footpaths to beautify their surrounding, but leaving no room for pedestrians to walk on. BBMP says such mini gardens are illegal. Bosky Khanna reports

Bosky Khanna

Pedestrians in Bilekahalli near Bannerghatta Road face a big question: Where are the footpaths?
As they keep walking daily on the road amid fears of getting hit by a vehicle anytime, many just don't realise that the answer lies very close in the shape of trimmed gardens outside villas they pass by.
Motorists are also worried as these mini gardens have gobbled up a portion of the road leaving them little space to negotiate when vehicles come from the other end.
In most upscale layouts and upcoming areas, residents have extended their lawns and gardens on to the footpaths, leaving no room for pedestrians to walk on. Mini gardens on footpaths are becoming a common sight in HSR Layout, Sadashivnagar, Dollars Colony, Domlur, Sahakara Nagar, Marathahalli, Indira Nagar and Koramangala. But the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) officials have not cleared a single such encroachment.
According to BBMP officials, mini gardens and lawns should not be allowed on footpaths, since footpaths are meant for public use. According to the Karnataka Municipal Act, such encroachments on footpaths are illegal. But since there have been no orders from the "higher-ups" to clear such encroachments, the BBMP has not taken any action, senior officials said.
Environmentalists said such gardens are welcome provided there is enough space on the footpath for pedestrians to walk around them. They help in water percolation, unlike tiled floors and cement slabs that do not allow water to seep through and thus cause flooding, they said.
TV Ramachandra, convenor, urban ecology, Environment and Policy Research Group, said the corporation's norms demand space to be left in front and behind a construction. But those norms are violated and footpaths are encroached upon.
The civic body should initiate stringent measures against encroachments.
V Ravichandar, chairman and managing director, Feedback, also stated that such gardens on footpaths were clearly encroachments. House owners feel such gardens beautify their surrounding. But this is no excuse to encroach upon public space, he said.
"We need to reclaim pedestrian walkways across the city from such encroachments. Holistic planning of footpaths is needed to fix this. In Western countries, households are responsible for the cleanliness in front of their homes," Ravichandar said. They need to clear the footpaths of even fallen leaves.
"I think there is a similar provision in the norms laid down by the BBMP. The civic law makes households responsible for the litter in front of their homes. However, the law is not enforced at all," he said.
Shops and hawkers are a common sight on the city footpaths. Even if civic officials drive them away, hawkers will be back in their traditional positions in a week.
"If you ask them why they are causing inconvenience to pedestrians by blocking their way, they say they have been here for years and the footpath is like a second home to them. Some even say they are ready to shift to organised markets if the BBMP constructs one such facility nearby," said a homemaker in Marathahalli. Another hurdle city residents face is debris dumped by construction workers on the footpath. When they demolish old structures,the workers are told by contractors to dump them somewhere. This way, lot of unwanted materials have found their way to the footpaths giving the lane an old and ugly look.
Now, mini gardens are the latest form of encroachments on the public space. Such encroachments leave pedestrians with no alternative but to walk on roadsides, urban planner Dr AS Kodanda Pani said. This results in many road accidents, he said.
The situation is worse in commercial and developing areas where neither the BBMP nor police officials take any steps against encroachments, he said.


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