The cities and towns have many components that cumulatively add to their outlook. These features are under multiple authorities to look after them as per their responsibilities. Some of the areas are either public property, under private ownership or under various authorities or departments like Auqaf, railways, roads and highways etc. Every department is responsible for the maintenance, planning, and beautification of the area under its jurisdiction. This should be focused on the area within the boundaries of each individual property, but what about what is left unattended; any roadsides, vacant plots, disputed properties, railway lines passing within the towns, drainage embankments etc. These lengths of land are although legally under public ownership, but are overlooked in terms of their maintenance and as if they are “No man’s land”.

It cannot be denied that these corridors of land along the major and minor arteries of a city due to negligence are not looked after. Developing countries, when they fail to provide employment to their rapidly growing population, are on the back foot and do not disturb self-employed vendors and street hawkers. These hawkers and vendors are always along the road sides, or on vacant plots.

These lengths along the thoroughfares are the actual face of a city. If the government fails to exercise its control over this mushroom growth it ends in uncollected waste, garbage dumps and encroachments. The spaces are meant to be operated as utility corridors along the main and secondary roads. Consequently, owners or rentals in commercial markets never bother to clear off their parking lots, roads and adjacent vacant plots from garbage and refuse dumps. These road shoulders are particularly used for the laying down of utility services, for instance, water supply, gas, electricity poles and other facilities like road furniture, plantation, foot paths, sign boards, islands, etc are hampered if care is not taken of these areas.

Uneven and uncared for roadsides create problems for pedestrian movement, drainage issues during rains and people start throwing solid waste along such road sides. In this situation, no one owns the land, the property owner denies their right outside their premises, the road department only refurbishes the asphalt part and totally ignores the shoulders. This trend is alarming. It not only disturbs the aesthetics and discomforts the people but is also disruptive for infrastructure. This issue cannot be handled at the individual or micro level. An integrated comprehensive vision is needed. The development authorities have to enforce a standardised pattern and look in the city which also looks after these unaccounted-for areas.

Similarly, the private landowners within housing schemes construct cement embankments, pavements and encroach the right of way of road to discourage parking outside their houses or grow small gardens at the expense of the road, this should also be strictly discouraged and forbidden. This issue should be addressed at the local or neighbourhood level. A local government system is designed to trickle down the benefits of planning to every street and corner. Any non-conformity and noncompliance of land use at road shoulders should be immediately identified by the local planning authority.

In the case of commercial areas, the situation is even worse. Every shopkeeper builds his own pavement in front of his property with respect to the level of his shop and hence the entire length of road frontage transforms into a stepped walk with varying levels. This is both ugly and difficult to walk through. It also has its implications in the collection and disposal of solid waste, drainage during rains and floods and certainly not aesthetically pleasing. These unattended spaces shall be a prime focus for authorities to retain the street scene and ensure uniformity and harmony to shape the fabric of towns and cities. We have to make our urban settings both liveable and beautiful.