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Residents oppose elevated road project

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MAKING A POINT: A resident seeks clarification from the officials at the public consultation meeting on the High-Speed Circular Transportation Corridor project in Chennai on Tuesday.
MAKING A POINT: A resident seeks clarification from the officials at the public consultation meeting on the High-Speed Circular Transportation Corridor project in Chennai on Tuesday.

A. Srivathsan

Adyar Poonga Trust promises to address the fears of the affected; stakeholders’ suggestions to be looked into

CHENNAI: About 200 residents, who had turned up for the public consultation meeting on the High-Speed Circular Transportation Corridor project in the city on Tuesday, without exception objected to the project and opposed the displacement it would cause.

They dared the government to remove their houses. Tempers ran high with a group of women even threatening that they would commit suicide if they were forced out of their settlements.

The Adyar Poonga Trust, fully owned by the Government of Tamil Nadu, has proposed a total length of 47-km elevated road to carry high-speed public and private transport. It had organised the public consultation.

Wilbur Smith Associates, consultants to the project, has proposed three elevated corridors along Adyar River, Buckingham Canal and Mambalam Canal and two corridors along Mount-Poonamallee Road and Inner Ring Road. The project would cost between Rs.3,000 crore and Rs.4,000 crore, depending on the final alignment.

A public presentation made on Tuesday showed that the current speed of vehicles on the Chennai roads varied between 15 km per hour to 30 km. The proposed elevated roads, the consultants explained, were designed for vehicles, particularly buses, to ply at a speed of 60 to 70 km per hour, which will help reduce the travel time.

Illustrations of the proposed two and three tier roads that will carry different modes of traffic along the river and road corridors were shown and the project details discussed. The areas that will be affected by the proposed roads and the entry and exit ramps were listed and a brief resettlement and rehabilitation proposal was presented.

Susheela of Kotturpuram was visibly upset with the proposal. She and her neighbours told The Hindu that widows and household workers like them have invested their energies and meagre savings on the houses they are presently living in. They want to know why it is always the poor like them who are displaced by the urban development projects and not the rich.

About 15 years ago, Susheela said the government promised not to dislocate them, but now they want to pack and send them to a far-off place. Veerasamy, also from Kotturpuram, wanted the government to look at lands available at places such as the YMCA and use them instead of disturbing the poor.

“This project threatens thousands of families with the various laws. None of these projects would serve any purpose unless the issue of housing for the poor is settled,” said Madhav, Secretary, Association of Housing Colonies along the Chennai Waterways.

Women belonging to the self help group from Burma Colony were critical of the anti-poor policies embedded in such projects.

Many residents from Nandambakkam repeatedly pleaded not to be displaced. “We have been living here for more than 40 years and invested as much as Rs.3 lakh on our houses. We do not want to be shifted and certainly not to any resettlement area that is disproportionately small and lacking in facilities,” they explained.

Thirunavakarsu, one of the residents, appealed to the Adyar Poonga Trust not to create any conflict between affected people like him and the other well-to-do residents of the city who apparently benefited from the project.

Laksmi from Sathya Nagar summed it all. ‘We do not understand much of what is being planned, but what it is clear is that we will be severely affected and we do not want it.’

Alternative accommodation

Speaking to The Hindu, K Phanindra Reddy, Member Secretary of the Trust said that the fears of slum dwellers and residents affected by this project will be addressed. “Issues of alternative accommodation and compensation will be adequately addressed. Suggestions given by the stakeholders will be looked into and a decision will be taken when the alignments are finalised” he added.

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