May 25, 2007

Master Plan for Chennai

An important process is on in our city. And it is for our city.
The draft of the second Master Plan for Chennai is open for discussion.
This is an important document; it guides the state in planning for the future of this city and its people.
A very positive developent has been the willingness of the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA), and commonly regarded as the place you go to to get a sanction for building plans, to invite the people of this city to share their views and offer their suggestions on this plan. The CMDA is also willing to incorporate all the key ideas.
This in itself is a major step forward in a climate where few state bodies are willing to even disclose their projects for our neighbourhoods.
CMDA is earnest in holding consultations in different parts of the city and in the suburbs. In some places, the participation has been enthusiastic.
I attended one such meeting last weekend. CMDA's vice-chairman, R. Santhanam, a respected officer, presented the salient features of this document and the suggestions that have been made.
Here is a sample of interesting details gleaned from the presentation.
- While there has been an explosion in the number of vehicles ( a majority are two-wheelers), most of the pavements have been done away with. Interestingly, 40% of employed people in a neighbourhood either walk or cycle to their workspot and state agencies just do not provide for their transport needs.
- The city has over 200 parks and playgrounds, and hence the 'open spaces' seem fairly widespread but such spaces have not been developed in the suburbs of what is called the Chennai Metropolitan Area (CMA).
- There is a strong suggestion to encourage construction along the MRTS corridor (rail system) and hence, an incentive to raise the FSI (Floor Space Index). The assumption is that people would like to live close to a transport network for obvious reasons. Some architects question the assumption though.
- Modern neighbourhoods are foreseen in two corridors. One is Sriperumbudur, which is home to a large spread of modern industrial activity. The other is Sholinganallur, along the IT Corridor. Civil society activists however, question why the IT industry and the people who work in it are being pampered.
When you have some time on your hands, you should read the shorter version of the Master Plan which is posted on the CMDA web site.
It will enlighten you about the city that is your home. And indicate to you what the future may well be. You may also want to provide inputs to the planners. (
We are not sure how far the CMDA will go to incorporate solid, informed suggestions of citizens in its final plan. But we should engage.
Meanwhile, did you know that there are many real estate promoters who are keen to promote the 'gated communities' concept in Chennai?
Are you for it? Do share your views here.


Ram Chander said...

Unless MRTS is put to best use, the growing number of vehicles and the allied transport problem will continue to persist.
The gated communities should be developed at least 25 kilometres away from the city limits and the population living in those communities should be transported into the city through chartered buses. No individual cars are to be permitted to be owned by each of the apartment owner.
I am concerned about the hospitals on the crowded main roads. Vijaya Hospital, Apollo, Sri Venkateswara, Malar, all are on main road which are getting narrowed day by day. The hospitals are also responsible for creating havoc on the roads because of inadequate parking spaces provided by the hospitals.


Chennai’s problems are mainly because of corruption in the CMDA, Corporation, and related government organs, and collusion between builders, officials, and sections of the legal class.

Some builders get the Corporation’s Planning Permit for construction of ground plus one storey, and then add more floors. The builders’ money bags make the Corporation and CMDA officials feign ignorance, and sections of the legal class support erring builders.

The builders also enjoy unfettered access to public roads and other public spaces for their construction activities without any supervision or intervention by the government leaving such spaces in very bad condition. No public space should be used for any construction or any other private activities.

In a situation of all-round corruption and malfeasance citizens usually turn to the judiciary through lawyers. But when sections of the legal class lack professional courtesy, integrity and accountability, with some working as “devils’ advocates” (of, among others, unscrupulous builders), and some pretending to be saviours of the consumers, the rajahs of the legal class will prosper, the prajas or lay persons will suffer, and no Master Plan will work.

So, what is important is to have a thorough probe into the functioning of the various “action groups”, government departments, and the legal class as a whole (including retired judges having their sinecure in the Consumer Forums), and not to allow lawyers to carry out their professional activities through and from the premises of consumer action groups.

It is also important to make people understand what went wrong with the earlier Master Plan, what were its fault lines, how the CMDA will undo the wrongs already done, in particular the haphazard growth of the city, how it will bring to book erring government officials, builders and other wrong-doers and the legal class supporting them, and how it will ensure that the Consumer Forums do their work honestly, speedily and efficiently and render justice to the victims.