Path to progress stopped with Sellur flyover built for 10 years and the aged Ring Road

Hopes of Madurai people getting world-class infrastructure soared high when the tier-II city was chosen for the implementation of Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) in 2006.

A comprehensive City Development Plan was drawn up in June that year for implementation of a multi-crore development project, taking into account the city’s infrastructure needs that included water supply, sanitation, storm water drainage, rejuvenation of water bodies, solid waste management, transportation and traffic management, street lighting, health and education, besides provision of basic needs for the poor.

Now, it is 2014, but the impact of implementation of JNNURM is hardly visible. In what looks like a throwback to the 1980s, the roads are back to their worn-out state; drinking water supply has not been augmented; traffic has become more chaotic; and water bodies cry for attention. Even the multi-coloured city buses, which were put into service with JNNURM funds, have lost their sheen. The city’s development plan is still confined to seminars and symposia organised in posh hotels.

The main objective of the CDP was emphasis on “issues of liveability and the implied requirements in terms of enhancing city productivity, reducing poverty, improving urban governance and management and enhancing financial sustainability.” These objectives addressed the concerns of the region that centred around sluggish industrialisation, absence of employment opportunities and resultant social tension.

Organisations such as Tamil Nadu Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Madurai District Tiny and Small Scale Industries Association (Maditssia) and Confederation of Indian Industry have been voicing their concerns over neglect of the south. They have been emphasising that infrastructure development alone would help attract big business houses and big ticket investments to Madurai.

As per the 2011 census, Madurai district had a population of 30.38 lakh. Madurai city accounts for a population of 10,16,885. Transport Department data on vehicle population shows there are a little over 8 lakh vehicles, which include 7.54 lakh two-wheelers, 46,508 public transport vehicles, 14,662 three-wheelers and 217 mini buses in the city.

Highways officials say there are proposals to build new flyovers and road overbridges in Goripalayam, Kalavasal and Palanganatham. Widening of arterial roads is also on paper.

“We are either laying worn out roads with borrowed funds or carrying out patch works on bridges,” says a senior official, pointing out that the last flyover, measuring 980 metres in length and built over a period of 10 years, is in Sellur. The last infrastructure development was the formation of 27.2-km Ring Road. The Madurai airport was spruced up in a big way at a cost of over Rs. 100 crore. But the two IT Parks built by the previous government remain non-starters.

What is needed

Driving through arterial roads during peak hours is a big challenge. Free movement of even two-wheelers is difficult. As in Chennai, flyovers must be built at many places with long-term vision, feel road users.

On the lines of the Clean Ganga initiative, the Vaigai should be cleaned. Instead of looking at the government for financial allocation, the once-popular ‘Namakku Naame’ scheme could be put to good use by roping in corporates, trade bodies and voluntary organisations, opine residents.

Though the Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple attracts a large number of devotees, its contiguous areas remain congested and unclean. The landmark Thirumalai Naick Palace requires a facelift as the sprawling campus lacks user-friendly toilets and good approach roads, KR. Gnanasambandan, former TANSTIA vice-president, says.

Greater Madurai

Trade bodies call for formation of a satellite township, ‘Greater Madurai.’ An area of over 2,000 to 3,000 acres can be earmarked for a self-sufficient township. By implementing the mega project, two things can be achieved: One, ancient Madurai can be preserved for posterity; two, the proposed township will facilitate a level-playing field to compete with metros, a retired engineer says.

Madurai residents have huge expectations on the newly-elected AIADMK MP R. Gopalakrishnan. Speaking to The Hindu, the MP says he will fulfil his poll promises. “You will see a new Madurai,” he says.

Vision 2023, a strategic plan for infrastructure development in Tamil Nadu, with special emphasis on southern districts, is the latest hope.

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