A maze of streets named after dubashes and merchants cut across the bustling Broadway Road leading to Chennai's north. Every square inch of land here has been used for construction, with little chance for further development. Land acquisition and encroachment removal are major issues, slowing down creation of infrastructure.
Localities from Kasimedu to Park Town, Vyasarpadi, Perambur and municipalities, including Manali, Tiruvottiyur and Madhavaram, form part of north Chennai that is home to lakhs of blue-collar workers. Tiny industries, including lathes, stainless steel polishing units, soap manufacturers and those making electrical fittings, are sandwiched among residences on narrow streets.
An area that has been a trading hub for merchants and residents from across the city and neighbouring districts, it now has lost its sheen with the development of other commercial localities such as T. Nagar and Purasawalkam.
P. Govind Das, Patron of Federation of Merchants and Manufacturers Associations, said that until a few decades ago each street in George Town was famous for a particular business. Now, most of the retail business has moved to other localities. Parking and transportation issues have made many shift to other markets, he said.
Space, crucial for any expansion, is hard to find here. Multi-storied buildings, shopping malls, multiplexes, engineering or medical colleges and sprawling schools with playgrounds are not to be seen here. Realtors say rental value is also low as most structures are old when compared to southern parts of the city.
Condition of roads
P. Badri Narayana, a resident of Kondithope, said that in many residential localities the quality of drinking water supplied was poor. Sewer blocks were frequent. Though teeming with workers who travel to various parts of the city, transport connectivity is a major problem. Many interior roads are pot-hole ridden and have not been relaid for quite sometime. Most areas were congested and lacked planning, he said.
Narrow roads and too many vehicles vying for space are a concern from the safety point of view. R. Nataraj, Director General of Police Fire and Rescue Services, said the fire load was more in north Chennai.
Old buildings constructed before the National Building Code was formulated are a challenge.
“The innumerable shops here lack fire safety measures. It is hard to enforce compliance. Of the 4,000 fire calls in Chennai during 2009, about 1,000 were from north Chennai,” he said.
Residents feel that scant attention is paid to garbage clearance.
“Only about 50-60 per cent of the garbage is cleared, roads are not swept properly. If the carriageway on the Basin Bridge is cleaned, there will be at least two lorry loads of mud that is grey in colour owing to the coal dust from the port,” said Nemichand of Old Washermenpet.
Fine particles of coal and iron carried from the port by the wind leave layers of black and red dust in many areas and roads, including Royapuram, Mannady and Rajaji Salai and First Line Beach, causing respiratory problems, said G. Krishnan of Mannady.
“Unlike south Chennai where the roads are broader and there is space for construction of flyovers, in north Chennai many of our projects are hampered by judicial wrangles.
However, we have initiated several projects to help ease traffic congestion that will be completed by December,” says Mayor M. Subramanian.
Projects to decongest the area, including the construction of a road overbridge at Cochrane Basin Road, the vehicular subway at Monegar Choultry Road near the Stanley Hospital, the Perambur Loco Works Bridge and Villivakkam subway to replace Level Crossing 2, have been inordinately delayed owing to various reasons.
Further north, works on widening of roads, including Tiruvottiyur High Road, Ennore Expressway and Manali Oil Refinery Road, are slow owing to procedural delays and lack of political will, say residents.
S. Kotteeswaran, a resident of Manali New Town, said heavy vehicular traffic caused frequent wear and tear of roads.
“There are no lights along the Ennore Expressway and this causes accidents. These roads are mainly used by containers and other heavy vehicles that feed the surrounding industries, neglecting the needs of residents.”
“I work in Perungudi and commute about 100 km everyday by motorcycle and MRTS. I take a short cut to Tondiarpet and Beach Station through a dirt track that connects the Tiruvottiyur railway gate to IOC as it reduces travel time. If that road is developed, it would help ease congestion on Tiruvottiyur High Road,” he said. “The expansion of Chennai Corporation's limits, I am sure, will resolve our problems.”