A COVID-proof plan for Malleswaram’s festivities
Come festive season, thousands throng the commercial areas in Malleswaram, especially 8th Cross. However, this poses a huge risk in spread of COVID-19.
To ensure this does not happen, Malleswaram Urban Living Lab (MULL), a collaborative effort between Malleswaram Social, a citizens’ group, and Sensing Local, a do-tank with focus on improving the state of environment and public health, has come out with a “Malleswaram 8th Cross Festival Plan”.
According to a representative, who worked on the initiative, volunteers surveyed the commercial hub and mapped different kinds of establishments, between September 30 and October 2. While there were nearly 200 street vendors, there were 77 shops. “We conducted surveys and spoke to vendors and shop owners/keepers about the challenges they faced and whether they were able to follow protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” the representative said, adding that while there seemed to be a high level of concern among shop owners, it was lower, among street vendors.
While social distancing regulating number of people, displaying awareness material, temperature checks, and hand sanitation were challenges faced by shop owners, for street vendors, contactless payment took precedence. However, the biggest concern for owners was customers not complying with safety measures, especially wearing masks. On the other hand, the biggest concern for street vendors was financial, given that the number of customers had dropped.
“We realised that interventions were necessary to fill the gaps in safety measures – regulating people, temperature checks, markings/ barriers to ensure social distancing, hand sanitation facilities and display of awareness material,” the representative said, adding that the need of the hour was to prepare for the inevitable and prevent the dangers of overcrowding, given that it will be impossible to prevent the influx of vendors and customers.
MULL worked out two options – demarcating pedestrian-only zones, clearing pavements to allow free movement, moving vendors to a location where they can space out, and creating vending zones for the festival. Under the first option, apart from pedestrianising 8th Cross, smaller pedestrian zones could be created at East Park Road and West Park Road. Traffic could be restricted in the conservancies. This would help accommodate existing and additional vendors. Under the second option, vendors could be relocated to East and West Park Roads, and conservancies.
“An overwhelming majority of vendors and shop owners we spoke to said they were willing to support such initiatives,” the representative told The Hindu. They had data to demonstrate that these options could be implemented on ground, even if temporarily, during the festival season. “We have submitted our report to Deputy Chief Minister C.N. Ashwath Narayan, who is also Malleswaram MLA. We plan on sharing it with the BBMP Commissioner and Administrator as well,” the representative said, pointing out that the same blueprint could be applied to other traditional markets areas in the city such as Gandhi Bazaar.