Despite lack of civic facilities, many interior areas hold an allure for homebuyers

Humongous housing and commercial projects can distort reality. They impart a veneer of self-sufficiency to localities where vast sections of people may actually be deprived of basic amenities.  

Take the areas added recently to the Chennai Corporation and the ones lying on the fringes of the Chennai metropolitan area. Their stock has gone up as a result of large-scale and persistent real estate activity. However, in many of these areas, civic infrastructure has not kept pace with the construction boom.  

Out of the eight added areas, only Valasaravakkam and Alandaur have fully functional sewer networks. The majority of these localities have not been established on the foundations of scientific urban planning. They don’t have a satisfactory number of footpaths, lack reliable water supply and adequate provisions for playgrounds. Poor lighting and road infrastructure also mark the interior portions of these eight localities, which include Tiruvottiyur, Manali, Madhavaram, Ambattur, Perungudi and Sholinganallur.

The mismatch between appearance and reality is even more glaring in the suburbs. Around the same time last year, this writer travelled down Nellikuppam Road (part of which lies in Guduvanchery) on the way to Kumizhi, a pristine scrub forest. Apartment complexes with fresh-smelling paint were found on this road, which connects GST Road to OMR at Thiruporur. It was however learnt that MTC does not operate adequate services on this route.

In fact, poor public transport is a defining feature of many areas on the fringes. Share autorickshaws have moved in to fill this gap. It is estimated that the majority of the 22 lakh daily trips done by share autos in and around Chennai take place in these outlying areas.  

Despite a lack of civic and social infrastructure, such interior areas hold a charm for homebuyers.

Part of the reason is their connectedness to corridors of growth. A fuel-efficient vehicle and a decent purse are the only other essentials in solving the problems of commuting and shopping. And many of those moving into such areas have both.  

A number of these educated residents are clued into urban affairs, participate enthusiastically in resident welfare activities and mobilise groups to protest irregularities. And therefore, anyone grappling with questions of urban development should engage with them for an understanding of neighbourhoods.

For a deeper knowledge though, they should interact with a different group. These are the people who don’t have gated communities or anything else to cushion them from the effects of improper urban development.

They rely on government clinics to have their illnesses treated, cannot look beyond buses and share autos to get to their workspaces, queue up in front of water lorries for drinking water, and lean on various other government agencies to conduct the other aspects of their lives.

To know the hopes, fears, disappointments and sorrows of these people is to know a neighbourhood fully.