Is Chen­nai ex­pand­ing in right di­rec­tion?

Chen­nai plans to ex­pand its metropoli­tan area about seven times. Com­pact­ing de­vel­op­ment, en­sur­ing sus­tain­abil­ity and low-den­sity sprawl are key con­cerns

Governance Now - - CONTENT - Shivani Chaturvedi

Over the last decade, chen­nai has been wit­ness­ing an un­prece­dented in­crease in ur­ban pop­u­la­tion and a large ex­pan­sion of in­dus­trial ar­eas in its sub­ur­ban re­gions. This ex­pan­sion has largely been un­or­gan­ised and hap­haz­ard. In or­der to reg­u­late growth and make it uni­form, the Tamil Nadu gov­ern­ment has de­cided to in­crease chen­nai’s metropoli­tan area seven times. as against the in­ter­na­tional norm of ex­pand­ing cities ver­ti­cally, ‘The detroit of In­dia’ is striv­ing to grow hor­i­zon­tally.

un­der the mega plan launched by hous­ing and ur­ban de­vel­op­ment min­is­ter udu­malai K ra­dha­krish­nan, the area un­der the chen­nai metropoli­tan de­vel­op­ment au­thor­ity (cmda) will in­crease from the ex­ist­ing 1,189 sq km to 8,878 sq km, cov­er­ing chen­nai, Kancheep­u­ram and Tiru­val­lur dis­tricts, be­sides arakkonam taluka of Vel­lore district.

dhar­men­dra Pratap Ya­dav, sec­re­tary of the state gov­ern­ment’s hous­ing and ur­ban de­vel­op­ment depart­ment, says, “Yes, the ex­pan­sion is com­ing late. right from 1975, when the cmda was formed, it has re­tained the same ar­eas un­der its ju­ris­dic­tion which were no­ti­fied then. A lot of in­dus­tri­al­i­sa­tion has taken place over the past years. This has led to ur­ban sprawl and rib­bon de­vel­op­ments.”

Talk­ing about the in­sti­tu­tional ar­range­ment, Ya­dav says there were two op­tions: one was to cre­ate a re­gional plan­ning au­thor­ity and al­low the ex­ist­ing plan­ning au­thor­i­ties to func­tion within that new au­thor­ity, while the re­gional plan­ning au­thor­ity would help them in pre­par­ing the master plan. The other op­tion was to ex­tend the area un­der the cmda, which has the ex­pe­ri­ence and the man­power to ex­e­cute metropoli­tan kind of de­vel­op­ment, in­clud­ing the task to pre­pare a re­gional plan for the en­tire area.

so now, the cmda will pre­pare a strate­gic re­gional plan and then a master plan to ex­pand the area, de­fine de­vel­op­ment bound­aries, and fix land use ac­cord­ingly.

Ya­dav ex­plains that un­der the plan “we pro­pose to re­duce fur­ther con­cen­tra­tion of peo­ple in chen­nai to de­con­gest it. We will be iden­ti­fy­ing de­vel­op­ment nodes or growth cen­tres – places that are de­vel­op­ing as new town­ships or ex­pand­ing town­ships”. The idea is to con­cen­trate on the de­vel­op­ment of th­ese growth cen­tres, which will in­clude res­i­den­tial de­vel­op­ment, by pro­vid­ing fa­cil­i­ties and prop­erly plan­ning

them, so that ur­ban sprawl is avoided. “By do­ing that, we can shift the pop­u­la­tion to iden­ti­fied po­ten­tially grow­ing cities around. This will re­quire fo­cused in­fras­truc­tural de­vel­op­ment, which will also re­duce the cost of in­vest­ment. in sprawl-based de­vel­op­ment, we have to lin­early pro­vide in­fra­struc­ture in a con­cen­trated place,” he says.

The ob­jec­tive of the plan is to have reg­u­lated growth and de­vel­op­ment along the trans­port cor­ri­dors and also with­out dis­turb­ing the ecol­ogy of the area. “as­pects like for­ma­tion of proper road link­age, adopt­ing the walk-towork model, change in land use and plan­ning pa­ram­e­ters such as floor space in­dex, con­ser­va­tion of re­serve for­est and wet­lands, and pro­tect­ing agri­cul­tural land will be cov­ered in the plan,” says a CMDA of­fi­cial.

Ya­dav says, “There is a lot of con­nec­tiv­ity from the high­way it­self. in­dus­trial ar­eas like or­a­gadam, sholin­ganal­lur, Ke­lam­bakkam, gst road and Ma­ha­balipu­ram to­wards the south are the main cor­ri­dors. sim­i­larly in the north, there is Kolkata road. We will iden­tify ar­eas along th­ese long cor­ri­dors and fo­cus on de­vel­op­ment in th­ese ar­eas.”

But ur­ban plan­ning ex­perts say the plan is am­bi­tious. They have con­cerns.

When the metropoli­tan re­gion grows, the rules that ap­ply to city de­vel­op­ment, that is, the de­vel­op­ment con­trol reg­u­la­tions, will start ap­ply­ing in the newly added ar­eas as well. in terms of the built form, the city will grow out­ward. The cmda needs to en­sure that the growth hap­pens at a mod­er­ate rate, un­like the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion where ex­pan­sion is hap­pen­ing rapidly and in an un­reg­u­lated way.

“The city lim­its are ex­pand­ing,” says chen­nai-based ur­ban de­signer Vid­hya Mo­hanku­mar. “More ar­eas will come un­der the cmda and the de­vel­op­ment reg­u­la­tions will change.”

The di­rec­torate of Town and coun­try Plan­ning (dtcp), un­der the state hous­ing and ur­ban de­vel­op­ment depart­ment, has ju­ris­dic­tion over all of Tamil Nadu ex­cept ar­eas un­der the cmda. so, some ar­eas which come un­der dtcp would now be un­der cmda.

“My un­der­stand­ing of a re­gional plan is that it pro­tects both the ru­ral and the ur­ban, and the char­ac­ter­is­tics of both. But in their ver­sion of the re­gional plan, it ap­pears that they are

“Some­how gov­ern­ments think that in In­dian cities, in or­der to ac­com­mo­date mi­gra­tory pop­u­la­tion or a gen­eral in­crease in pop­u­la­tion, the only way for­ward is to spread hor­i­zon­tally. But his­tor­i­cally, it has been seen that cities that spread hor­i­zon­tally have been un­suc­cess­ful.” Vid­hya Mo­hanku­mar, Ur­ban de­signer

go­ing to just ex­pand and make it a larger ver­sion of the city. This has kind of hap­pened in Bengaluru. They ex­panded the lim­its hor­i­zon­tally and the city grew in all direc­tions. The same thing is ex­pected in chen­nai. i don’t think there is a dif­fer­ent ap­proach to the way they are see­ing a re­gional plan,” she says.

Hor­i­zon­tal vs ver­ti­cal

ur­ban plan­ning ex­perts be­lieve that the de­ci­sion to ex­pand chen­nai hor­i­zon­tally rather than ver­ti­cally is in the wrong di­rec­tion.

Mo­hanku­mar says that some­how gov­ern­ments think that in in­dian cities, in or­der to ac­com­mo­date mi­gra­tory pop­u­la­tion or a gen­eral in­crease in pop­u­la­tion, the only way for­ward is to spread hor­i­zon­tally. But his­tor­i­cally, it has been seen that cities that spread hor­i­zon­tally have been un­suc­cess­ful.

she ex­plains that when the city ex­pands 4,000-8,000 sq km, it be­comes dif­fi­cult to man­age the area – in terms of con­trol and sus­tain­abil­ity.

There is a pos­si­bil­ity that the area will be bro­ken into mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties and, each gets to de­cide its de­vel­op­ment con­trol reg­u­la­tions – lead­ing to de­cen­tral­i­sa­tion. But this is not go­ing to be use­ful be­cause, at the end of day, it is still one ur­ban ag­glom­er­a­tion and mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties will con­tinue to in­ter­act or rely on the core cor­po­ra­tion area for ba­sic ser­vices.

The other as­pect is sus­tain­abil­ity. right now, there is no ur­ban growth bound­ary and there is a need to com­pact the de­vel­op­ment. grow­ing hor­i­zon­tally is un­sus­tain­able be­cause the con­sump­tion of land is very high. it in­volves swal­low­ing agri­cul­tural lands and vil­lages in the pe­riph­ery. “in a re­gional frame­work for de­vel­op­ment, we look at strength­en­ing towns and vil­lages that may be a part of a larger ur­ban ag­glom­er­a­tion. That’s not the way they look at it. They look at hor­i­zon­tally sweep­ing across, cov­er­ing all the towns and bring­ing ev­ery­thing into the fold of the city. and this is what is un­sus­tain­able as we are killing those towns and vil­lages and their char­ac­ter­is­tics,” she says.

“There is no con­cept of com­pact­ing the de­vel­op­ment, as in, con­sol­i­dat­ing the ex­ist­ing area and look­ing at al­ter­na­tive ways of in­fill de­vel­op­ment [the use of land within a built-up area for fur­ther con­struc­tion] like in­te­grat­ing the land use and the trans­porta­tion net­work in a way that it al­lows you to com­pact the city and grow ver­ti­cally,” she adds.

ac­cord­ing to her, we are cre­at­ing a prob­lem for our­selves in terms of man­ag­ing in­fra­struc­ture and out­lay. The cost of de­vel­op­ing hor­i­zon­tally, in lay­ing in­fra­struc­ture, is high, time con­sum­ing and en­ergy re­source con­sum­ing.

giv­ing the ex­am­ple of the na­tional cap­i­tal re­gion (Ncr), she says that Noida, gur­gaon and Farid­abad are still out­side delhi and the in­fras­truc­tural de­vel­op­ment in th­ese ar­eas is not highly talked about. also, build­ing the char­ac­ter of th­ese towns has yet not been taken care of. The rea­son for this is that we look at de­vel­op­ment in a tan­gi­ble man­ner. intangibles like cul­ture, en­vi­ron­ment and ecol­ogy are lost in the process.

christo­pher Kost, the africa pro­gramme di­rec­tor at the in­sti­tute for Trans­porta­tion and de­vel­op­ment Pol­icy (itdp), has worked in chen­nai and is fa­mil­iar with the city’s plan­ning is­sues. He says that the ex­pan­sion of the

de­vel­op­ment au­thor­ity area isn’t an is­sue per se, pro­vided that the au­thor­ity’s poli­cies are fo­cused on con­tain­ing growth around pub­lic trans­port cor­ri­dors within the ex­ist­ing ur­banised area. How­ever, cur­rent build­ing con­trol and zon­ing poli­cies in Chen­nai en­cour­age a low-den­sity sprawl that is re­sult­ing in rapid hor­i­zon­tal ex­pan­sion of the city. res­i­dents face longer com­mutes and it’s ex­pen­sive to pro­vide util­i­ties and trans­port ser­vices to th­ese far-flung ar­eas. “it would be much more en­vi­ron­men­tally sus­tain­able and cost-ef­fec­tive to en­cour­age ver­ti­cal growth,” he says.

But, “ex­pand­ing the ex­tent of the au­thor­ity’s ju­ris­dic­tion could ac­tu­ally be a good thing – if the agency were us­ing that in­flu­ence to pre­vent sprawl within this area. With the present poli­cies, the ex­panded area might cre­ate an in­cen­tive to en­cour­age more sprawl,” he adds.

in chen­nai, pro­vi­sions of in­fra­struc­ture fol­low ur­ban ex­pan­sion. Peo­ple build houses, and then the rel­e­vant agen­cies strug­gle to catch up with water sup­ply lines, sewage, roads, etc. in the mean­time, peo­ple make do with bore­holes, sep­tic tanks and the like. “This sit­u­a­tion should be turned around such that agen­cies can plan proac­tively for ur­ban ex­pan­sion, cre­at­ing street net­works and lay­ing down ba­sic util­i­ties in or­der to guide ur­ban ex­pan­sion,” sug­gests Kost. if th­ese fa­cil­i­ties are pro­vided be­fore­hand, the re­sult­ing de­vel­op­ment can be much denser. For in­stance, he says, in gu­jarat, there is a well-es­tab­lished town plan­ning scheme whereby the gov­ern­ment re-ad­justs plots and pro­vides ba­sic in­fra­struc­ture be­fore con­vert­ing the land to ur­ban zon­ing.

Fur­ther­more, the ex­pan­sion of the CMDA could af­fect ru­ral ar­eas, es­pe­cially in its road projects. “They [roads] can im­prove ac­cess but they are of­ten de­signed with­out any pro­vi­sion for pedes­tri­ans, cy­clists or pub­lic trans­port,” he adds.

Re­tain­ing iden­tity

Her­itage en­thu­si­asts are con­cerned that the iden­tity of the older parts of the city should be re­tained in the ex­er­cise of ex­pan­sion and re­de­vel­op­ment.

s suresh, ar­chae­ol­o­gist and Tamil Nadu state con­vener of the in­dian Na­tional Trust for art and cul­tural Her­itage (in­tach), says that the city needs laws to reg­u­late de­vel­op­ment in the older ar­eas. The au­thor­i­ties must re­alise that the older ar­eas can­not be de­vel­oped in the same way as the newer ones.

The cmda is list­ing her­itage build­ings in the city as well as in the outer ar­eas which will now come un­der its ju­ris­dic­tion. sure sh feels that the ex­pan­sion should bed one in a her­itage sen­si­tive way. There have been master plans for chen­nai ear­lier also. “a master plan is wel­come but any plan can­not be uni­form for the whole city. even if we take a small area in the city, like from ge­orge Town to Thiru­van­miyur, in be­tween, there are so many lo­cal­i­ties of dif­fer­ent types. Hence, we need dif­fer­ent types of de­vel­op­ment reg­u­la­tions for them, so that their iden­ti­ties are not tam­pered with,” he says. any plan, whether it is ur­ban plan­ning or de­vel­op­ment plan­ning, has to take lo­cal con­di­tions, re­quire­ments and as­pi­ra­tions of each area into con­sid­er­a­tion. “some of the small ar­eas may be to­tally un­doc­u­mented. The agen­cies have to do a care­ful study as some small ar­eas may be well de­vel­oped and may qual­ify as ur­ban satel­lite cen­tres and oth­ers may be more ru­ral and may need a dif­fer­ent type of ap­proach for de­vel­op­ment,” he says, adding that the chal­lenges ahead are many for the au­thor­i­ties and “since their re­spon­si­bil­ity and work load will in­crease, we hope they rise to the oc­ca­sion.”

Ya­dav ad­mits that there are chal­lenges. “The big­gest task is to pre­pare the strate­gic re­gional plan and then keep­ing that in view work on the master plan for the en­tire area.” The re­gional plan will broadly clas­sify the ar­eas that will be ur­banised, those that will re­main agri­cul­tural lands and those that will re­main as for­est lands. “Based on re­source map­ping we can see where in­dus­tries will come, how walk-to-work con­cept will be pro­moted, what will be the water re­quire­ment for the en­tire re­gion and how it can be planned,” he says.

asked about the im­pact on the ru­ral ar­eas, Ya­dav says that those won’t get af­fected. “Through this ini­tia­tive we want to pre­serve agri­cul­tural lands by dis­al­low­ing sprawl or rib­bon de­vel­op­ment and fo­cus on ex­ist­ing growth cen­tres and plan­ning all de­vel­op­ment within and around th­ese alone, rather than un­reg­u­lated growth and habi­ta­tions here. This will check un­re­stricted con­ver­sion of agri­cul­ture lands in the ab­sence of proper plan­ning,” he says.

“We need a lot of trained man­power and town plan­ners. We will be in­creas­ing the strength of plan­ners at the cmda. Many stake­hold­ers are in­volved in­clud­ing traf­fic, trans­porta­tion, water and sewage, for­est and agri­cul­ture, and they will work in the frame­work of the master and the re­gional plan.”

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