Chennai Corporation has to tone up infrastructure in all areas

Ever since the announcement on Chennai expansion was made, expectations run high about improvements on various fronts among residents and elected representatives of areas in the city fringes.

Residents of many areas, particularly village panchayats that are to be merged with the Corporation and starved of basic amenities, have welcomed the decision. They hope that a comprehensive plan for infrastructure development and proper use of resources would be initiated. Indeed, for the Corporation it will be the twin challenges – of upgrading facilities in its existing limits and after expansion raising the level of infrastructure uniformly in the areas to be merged too.

While some municipalities such as Alandur and Valarasaravakkam are relatively better off in terms of revenue and infrastructure, many particularly in north and western suburbs, are way behind.

Vijaya Chalapathy, a resident of Korattur falling under Ambattur Municipality, said, “Open drains carry sewage… we have been waiting for the completion of underground and water supply projects for nearly a decade.

After the merger with Chennai Corporation, we look forward to efficient management of funds and improved monitoring of work.”

A pointer to the state of affairs in some suburbs is the decision of residents in a few localities to form ‘kuccha' roads using construction debris as their local bodies have not bothered to develop infrastructure. C. Thirumaladimai, Secretary of Maduravoyal Residents' Welfare Association, said the difference between Corporation limit and municipality becomes obvious from the quality of the roads.

Despite sufficient revenue, negligence of elected representatives has hampered progress. “We want the new administration to expedite projects, lay roads and construct stormwater drains to prevent flooding,” he said, echoing the sentiments of residents of many suburban areas.

Elected representatives in northern suburbs, including Madhavaram and Kathivakkam, too expect that infrastructure development could be expedited with more funds pumped in to their areas. Former Kathivakkam chairman A.Murugavel said there is a gap of Rs.40 lakh to Rs. 50 lakh every year between revenue and expenditure.

V.Rama Rao of Nanganallur said allocation of funds for local bodies worked out to roughly 11 per cent, which is inadequate. “States such as Kerala and West Bengal are allocating more funds for local bodies. The Tamil Nadu government should follow suit,” he said.

In the southern suburbs too, residents hope that the quality of basic amenities would improve. C. Manimaran, AIADMK Panchayat Union Councillor from Kovilambakkam pointed out that there were many village panchayats, whose population and revenue made them eligible to be upgraded as urban local bodies.

The funds of high revenue yielding municipalities such as Alandur or even the richer Sholinganallur and Perungudi town panchayats would become part of the Corporation after expansion.

According to urban planners and experts, managing capital funds to provide amenities would be a major challenge for the Corporation. Improving e-governance and implementing stringent measures in use of funds were essential for progress.

D.S.Sivasamy, a former Additional Director of Municipal Administration, said the Corporation can use locally available resources, including waterbodies, buildings and asphalt plants in the expanded areas.

S.P. Sekar, professor, Department of Urban Planning, School of Architecture, Anna University, said, “initially, the administration would have to spend a lot. People would be willing to pay more property tax if they are given facilities.

The government may also think of decentralising financial powers at zonal level as in Mumbai.

The administration would have to identify methods to increase revenue. For instance, Greater Ahmedabad has metered water supply, he said.

However, such changes cannot happen overnight as infrastructure development needs meticulous planning and funds, experts said.

The Commissionerate of Municipal Administration has already identified priority areas, including provision of roads, water supply and underground drainage networks and solid waste management, which need immediate attention.

Officials said suburban residents would continue to pay the same amount of property tax for some more months. Besides upgrading e-governance, more facilitation centres would be created and sites would be identified for more dumping yards.

Manpower management in panchayats where the shortage is more felt, is another area of concern, they added.