Road-widening work begins on Meenambakkam stretch to ease traffic congestion

The State highways department on Monday pulled down a number of commercial buildings in Meenambakkam to widen the Grand Southern Trunk Road.

This move comes as part of the road-widening work planned by the department to ease congestion on a stretch of nearly one kilometre.

According to officials of the department’s Chennai City Roads Division, which is in charge of maintenance of GST Road (National Highway 45), the carriageway’s width in Meenambakkam was only 9-11 metres between the flyover opposite the Chennai Airport and the signal near the main entrance to the old airport terminal, which often resulted in traffic bottlenecks.

The highways department found that widening was not possible without acquiring property, all of them commercial buildings, at Meenambakkam. As early as in 2011, they had notified the extent of land needed to be acquired and had informed the residents. On Monday, they demolished buildings on 950 square metres (10, 225 square feet).

Once land is acquired, the department will increase the road’s width to 16.5 metres on either side of the median. They will also be widening the stretch on the opposite side, where the land belonged to the Ministry of Defence. They had written to the Ministry seeking their consent, officials added. The widening was also in anticipation of extension of the Metro Rail project from St. Thomas Mount to the Chennai Airport, the officials said. But officials at Chennai Metro Rail Limited (CMRL) said the demolition had nothing to do with them. “At present we don’t have any plans to pull down buildings for metro rail work. Today’s demolition has been done as part of road-widening work only,” said an official.

Revenue officials said the compensation was yet to be received by landowners as they were unhappy over the compensation amount, fixed at Rs. 1,000 per square foot.

“We have been living here for generations. We have not constructed our houses or shops in ‘poramboke’ land (unassessed waste land). This is ‘poorveega patta’ (ancestral) land,” said Rajeswari Hari, while earth-moving equipment was tearing down her two-storey building.

According to residents, the compensation amount of Rs. 1,000 per square foot was unjust, as between 2007 and 2012, the guideline for Commercial Area Class I on GST Road in Meenambakkam was Rs. 3,000 per square foot, while it was increased to Rs. 8,000 per square foot in April this year. They said they were not making an unjust demand of compensation based on the existing guideline value, but as Rs. 1,000 per square foot was too low, it could be increased to Rs. 3,000 per square foot at least.

The residents said several thousand daily wage earners and other contract and casual workers depended on restaurants in Meenambakkam for their meals and if the shops were not reopened, it would affect the workers as well as the few hundred families in Meenambakkam.

The demolition, which started at 6.30 a.m., resulted in crippling of traffic on the stretch even past noon.

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