Despite urbanisation, Kancheepuram and Tiruvallur districts do not have even a single market

The government, it appears, has a narrow view of infrastructure. It seems to think that roads and flyovers alone are the needs of cities. But hospitals, schools, playgrounds and a host of other amenities too, are essential and constitute the nuts and bolts of every city. Chennai has only to look back on its past and see how proactive and conscious of facilities it was a just a few decades ago.

The story of the Koyambedu wholesale market would be helpful to remind one of the many other things a city needs besides its metal roads. The market was planned in the 1970s and inaugurated in 1996. Though it took several years to fructify, it serves the purpose it was built for. It has separate blocks for vegetables, fruits and flowers. Presently, work is on to construct a food grain market in the complex.

The shift of the wholesale market from George Town was necessary, because the city was expanding — it was getting congested and better amenities were needed. Despite the city growing rapidly and in all directions, Koyambedu remains the only market that serves a population of more than 6 million in an area of 1,178 sq. km. So the question is, why the CMDA and other government agencies have not planned for additional markets.

The rapidly-expanding districts of Tiruvallur and Kancheepuram are not getting any facilities. Statistics from the 2011 census show that Tiruvallur has grown by 62.19 per cent in population, when compared to 2001. Similarly Kancheepuram, has grown by 65.33 per cent. At present, Kancheepuram district has a total of 9.93 lakh households and Tiruvallur a total of 9.38 lakh. Despite this rapid urbanisation, both these areas do not have even a single market.

What residents are looking for, is the creation of different kinds of markets — and not just fancy supermarkets. With private players willing to come up only in certain upmarket localities, the government’s intervention is a needed to provide community markets that will enable provision of affordable food produce.

A few places have Uzhavar Sandhais, where farmers bring in their produce to sell. While they can continue to exit or be upgraded, provision of space and planning of access are needed for these markets.

The question as to who has to build could come next, but at first, the issue is that of planning. As of today, the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority is vested with the task of planning the Chennai metropolitan area, and there are discussions to expand this from its present 1,167 sq. km. to more than 3,000 sq. km.

It is time the government identified localities that need markets in consultation with residents and local bodies. Well-designed market complexes should then be commissioned and built within a set time frame. An apex body should also be set up to ensure that these projects are implemented sans delays.

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