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Stand-off delays reconstruction of tenements at Nochikuppam

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BAD SHAPE: The tenement in Nochikuppam where the ceiling gave in on Thursday. —
BAD SHAPE: The tenement in Nochikuppam where the ceiling gave in on Thursday. —

A. Srivathsan

Disagreement over enumeration of the beneficiaries mars the process

CHENNAI: The ceiling of one of the slum board tenements in Nochikuppam along the Marina Beach gave in, injuring four, including two children, in the early hours on Thursday. While three of them suffered minor injuries, Valli (25) was treated for head injuries at the Government General Hospital and later, discharged.

Complaining about the poor state of the tenements, Desapatu, mother of Valli, said that only a few months ago, ceiling of another portion of the same tenement fell, injuring her husband Thangaraj.

The tenements in Nochikupam were built in 1971 as part of a slum improvement programme. Poor maintenance, salinity at the coast and age have severely damaged the blocks and the dwelling units are in bad shape.

The State government in 2006 decided to reconstruct these tenements and also rehabilitate those staying in huts as part of the Emergency Tsunami Reconstruction Project with World Bank assistance and promised to begin work in 2007. But not much progress has been made. The demolition and reconstruction work are yet to start.

Disagreement over enumeration of the beneficiaries has delayed the reconstruction project. Fishermen and others who are residing along the Marina Beach have not agreed on the criteria and the resettlement plan put up by the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board (TNSCB).

In 2006, the government proposed to build about 7,320 tenements along the coast up to Srinivasapuarm. Each tenement with an area of about 236 square feet was sanctioned. This number was subsequently reduced to 5,856 tenements.

“The number had to be reduced because the area of proposed tenement was increased to 325 sq.ft.” said K. Ramachandran, TNSCB Chairman.

Fishermen and other residents are agitated over the reduction in numbers and frequent changes made to the lists of beneficiaries. “Why do you not build what you promised at the beginning? There is enough land but there is not will to spend for the poor,” says Pandian, a resident of Nochikupam.

“More units cannot be constructed as we have used up the permissible FSI of 1.5,” Mr. Ramachnadran explained.

However, the State government now permits an FSI of 2.25 for affordable housing projects with unit sizes not more than 30 sq.m in size.

Mr.Ramachandran feels that it has already taken one year to design, get approvals, float tenders and get closer to construction. “We cannot rework at this stage and in addition we cannot cramp the layout. We also have to follow standards prescribed by the architects and World Bank consultants.”

Last month, another set of lists of eligible beneficiaries of Nochikuppam and Nochi Nagar, which will be developed part of the first phase, were put up. We did not receive notices personally, they were pasted on the walls of the tenements, said many fishermen.

More than 1,000 persons who found themselves either left out or marked as ineligible have appealed.

“We have put up a list of five criteria to identify those who are eligible for new tenements and we follow a transparent process,” said Mr. Ramachandran.

The TNSCB has started constructing temporary shelters for the residents until the reconstruction is complete.

“If you had left our huts as they were, we would have built our own houses incrementally and met our needs. We have to be accommodated here and we will not shift,” says Sarvanan, a fisherman at Nochikuppam.

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