A city of labyrinthine corridor roads, Chennai is set to expand further. A look at the shape of its growth...

In another 15 years, about 12.5 million — five million more than the present population — will be living within the Chennai Metropolitan Area (city and the 1000 sq. km region around it). Four out of the five million new residents, the government estimates, will settle in the region surrounding the city. In other words, the suburbs of Chennai, which are now open and sparsely inhabited, would soon be dense with buildings and people.

Arterial roads

What shape and direction would this growth take?

Chennai is a city of corridors. Arterial Roads, five in particular, have determined the direction and shape of the city. Kolkota Highway, Poonamallee High Road, Grand Southern Road and Old Mahabalipuram Road with their good connectivity and infrastructure have drawn people, investors and builders. It is only the northern side that has not grown as much as it should have. This corridor pattern, it appears, will continue in the future as well.


The weak interlinks between the corridors have been a concern. So far only two inner circular roads — Nugambakkam High road and Inner Ring Road — have developed. The Chennai Bypass road, which starts from Tambaram, is almost complete but it is meant for the truck traffic to reach the Harbour and places beyond. The next major project that will significantly influence the city's growth will be the proposed Outer Ring Road. It will cover most of the arterial roads and improve access to the green field airport at Sriperambudur, if and when it comes.

One would expect, given the nature of development along the corridors, the government to implement schemes such as Bus Rapid Transport System to improve mobility and reduce dependence on private vehicles for improved mobility. Unfortunately, not much has happened on that front.

Challenges ahead

Chennai faces four major challenges. Foremost among them is the shortage of housing for the poor. Unless this issue is addressed, the city will not be inclusive and proliferation of slums cannot be stopped. The second challenge is the upkeep of its water bodies, which includes places such as Pallikaranai marsh. The restoration of the Cooum, which is long overdue, has been launched. Unfortunately, both the Cooum and the Adyar will also host elevated expressways on their banks. Similarly, the beach front too is threatened by a proposed elevated road. The third challenge is the need to reduce the production of waste and find improved ways to manage it efficiently. The last challenge is to make the city friendly to old people, children and the differently-abled.

A relieving feature

The major infrastructure project currently under way (to be completed in 2105) is the 45 km Chennai Metro Rail network. Built partly below ground and partly elevated, this Rs. 15,000 crore project is expected to relieve congestion at least on two arterial roads and the inner ring road. Much more could be gained if the metro rail network is extended to the suburbs, a feeder bus system is put in place and the areas around the stations are developed properly.


A. SrivathsanJune 28, 2012

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