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Indecisiveness keeps urban projects on hold

A. Srivathsan
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Key programmes that can transform the city are undermined by governmental delay

A long list of important projects and legislation related to urban development is pending for want of government decision. This delay, experts say, would seriously undermine the integrated development of the city and its surrounding region.

On the top of the waiting list is the proposal to prepare a comprehensive regional plan for Chennai. Last year, the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) had drawn the government’s attention to the problems of disconnected development in the suburbs: proposed industrial corridors in Sriperumbudur area and a large private township in a 1500-acre property off old Mahabalipuram Road, to name a few.

To integrate this development and meaningfully link them with Chennai’s growth, the CMDA last year proposed to expand the Chennai Metropolitan Area (CMA) from its present size of 1189 sq.km to 5000 or 8000 sq.km.

It had also suggested two alternatives: either constitute a separate regional planning authority to manage the expanded Chennai region or vest the responsibility with the CMDA. The government is yet to take a decision on this.

K.P. Subramanian, former professor of Urban Engineering, Anna University said that Chennai is the only mega city in the country that does not have a regional approach. “Regional planning is necessary to identify the problems that lie outside the CMA area and plan for a balanced development. We can not wait for Chennai to grow unwieldy,” he explained.

The second significant project that awaits a government decision is the land-pooling proposal to develop road networks and neighbourhood development. Land pooling enables the government to temporarily acquire lands to form the required roads and reserve open spaces. After completing the road formation, the authorities return the remaining developed land to the owners and collect proportionate development charges. This prevents wholesale acquisition and reduces conflict.

Following the success of this model in Gujarat, the Justice S. Mohan Committee, constituted to revise the Tamil Nadu Town and Country Planning Act, recommended this method and the necessary amendments to facilitate it in 2010.

While the government accepted the recommendations of the committee pertaining to building regularisation and infrastructure charges, it is yet to take a decision on land pooling. This delay has ruled out the possibility of its application in projects such as the preparation of road grids along the Outer Ring Road.

The government amended the Registration Act many months ago to prevent registration of housing plots in unauthorised layouts. However, it has not notified the Act since it has not taken a decision regarding the cut-off date to regularise unauthorised plots. C.H. Gopinatha Rao, former president of the Institute of Valuers said, “Unapproved layouts lead to haphazard growth. The government should quickly notify this Act to ensure better city planning and protect property buyers.”

Similarly, the Chennai Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority (CUMTA) Act, which was passed in 2010 to bring about a unified transport plan for the city, has not been notified. Though the various subcommittees of the CUMTA are functioning, they lack the required legislative teeth.

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