Chennai Corporation calls for yet another public meet to redevelop business hub even as residents remain sceptical

The Chennai Corporation will hold a public consultation on urban redevelopment of T. Nagar at Pitty Thyagaraya Hall on Thursday. All stakeholders, including residents, will get an opportunity to make suggestions about the proposal.

Residents and urban planners who questioned the vision of the T. Nagar urban redevelopment project, to develop the area into a world-class shopping destination, during the earlier public consultation meet, a few years ago, continue to be sceptical of the success of this one.

Back then, even though experts emphasised that commercial development could not be promoted at the expense of residential life in T. Nagar, the civic body has called for the meeting without any steps towards a change in the existing condition, residents say.

The redevelopment plan of T. Nagar will not be successful without addressing the problem of illegal structures. V.S. Jayaraman, a resident, said that over 250 commercial establishments in T. Nagar did not comply to fire safety norms, according to an RTI reply obtained recently. “What is the Corporation or CMDA going to do about such violations? Unless action is taken against illegal structures, the proposal for redevelopment of T. Nagar will not be successful,” said Mr.Jayaraman.

Pointing to the unusual increase in number of rats because of irregular garbage clearance in T. Nagar, another resident, R. Mohan, said, “I have seen hundreds of rats feed at the same time on the food dumped near Mangai Street at night. Residents are worried about a possible outbreak of leptospirosis.”

Many commercial establishments have closed stormwater drains to prevent rats from coming out. “This compounds the problem,” he said. “Drains continue to get clogged because of dumping of plastic waste. The civic body is yet to ban plastics in the area,” he said.

Senior traffic and urban planners in the city said proposals to minimise traffic penetration T. Nagar would be ineffective if the government permitted the unabated growth of commercial activity without adequate planning.

The planners said that the consultant was considering the redevelopment plan as a business model rather than a step towards inclusive growth. “They speak about inclusive growth in the redevelopment plan. But slum areas in T. Nagar do not seem to benefit at all,” an expert said. He also frowned upon the earlier proposal to convert the bus terminus in T. Nagar to a parking lot.

Many residents at the earlier consultation meet had emphasised the need for a moratorium on commercial development in T. Nagar. “Overgrowth, overdevelopment and high density are the root causes of the problem. This redevelopment plan should not be an excuse for the civic body to get out of the mess they have made,” said an urban planner.

The redevelopment project was conceived by the Chennai Corporation and covered 6.86 sq. km. of the T. Nagar area. The Tamilnadu Urban Infrastructure Financial Services Ltd (TNUIFSL) assisted the civic body by appointing Jones Lang Lasalle Meghraj (JLLM) and Townland Consultants to prepare the plans.

Corporation officials said the redevelopment plan looked at solutions for residents, hawkers and commercial establishments.

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