April 10, 2010

Plan to redesign T. Nagar

This is a vision statement.

It runs - To develop T. Nagar into a sustainable world-class shopping destination which will function harmoniously with the residential, cultural and environmental characteristics of T. Nagar.

Our City Fathers are turning their attention to T. Nagar. They want to re-develop, revitalize, re-construct, re-engineer, renovate, re-visit, re-store, resurrect, restructure and revive what is probably Chennai’s hottest neighbourhood.

Early, this week, they organised the first public consultation on this project.

Holding such consultations is a fairly simple task for the state - you pick up a list of what you believe are the stakeholders: in this case they are residents, shop owners, hawkers and local policemen, cull from a list of city civic activists, invite the city media and key officials and roll the ball.

I did not have an invitation but decided to gate-crash. Nobody objected. As long as you have your two-bit to contribute at the mike, any organiser is happy with your presence.

There is drama at such consultations. Some speakers can spit fire and brimstone, some use the occasion to settle old scores and some love to hang on to the mike.

Anyway, guests get their share of a free run of views, suggestions and opinions and then the consultants take over.

Consultants always have some grand ideas.

In an age where Photoshop is child’s play, a consultant can clip pictures of a Korean subway shopping mall and paste them on the Mambalam railway station or copy scenes from a community park in Brussels and enliven the atmosphere that exists at Paanagal Park!

I am really not sure how ‘public’ these public consultations are or what purpose they really serve.

Public consultations are a must and should be open and democratic exercises. And they should respect much of what people have to offer.

I did not have much to offer at the T. Nagar consultation for I was there to observe what went on at such public fora on issues that affect our city.

But I did make a few suggestions.

To print simple, colourful brochures outlining the vision, plans and ideas for T. Nagar and circulate them at all the shops and apartments in this neighbourhood.

To feature the salient features and designs on display boards and erect them at public squares in this district

To launch a web site exclusively on this project and encourage lots of interaction and communication between stakeholders, the public and the state and their designates.

I think when such huge and critical issues concerning us all are floated the first thing to do is to be transparent and encourage lots of debate, discussion and participation.

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