Malaysia nets Rs. 5,952.5 crore projects

CHENNAI APRIL 15. The controversial Marina beach beautification project and the prestigious administrative city venture at Thiruvidanthai, on the outskirts of Chennai, may still be on the drawing-board. They are among a series of projects the Malaysian Government's Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) plans to undertake in Tamil Nadu. The board claims to have netted a minimum of Rs.5,952.5-crore (MR 4762 million) worth of projects here.

According to the CIDB's web site, other major projects by its consortiums are work on development of the Colachel port, construction of an elevated expressway between the Chennai port and Tambaram, Chennai water supply augmentation, Hogenakkal water supply and sanitation in Dharmapuri, Ramanathapuram bulk water supply, and development of National Highway 45 on the Tindivanam-Tiruchi-Madurai stretch.

Projects yet to be confirmed, it says, include regeneration of the Cooum and the Buckingham Canal, four-laning of the Chennai bypass, construction of a high-level bridge across the Cauvery to connect Mohanur in Namakkal and Vangal in Karur, treatment and disposal of hazardous and non-hazardous wastes, and the Marina seashore development project.

However, its most prestigious projects - the Marina development and the Administrative City - have come up against serious hurdles.

The Chief Minister herself set aside the administrative city project, saying it would take more than two decades for completion, and instead settled for an interim multicrore Secretariat at the Queen Mary's College site, which plan too has run into rough weather.

As for development of the Marina - which includes construction of shoreline corporate complexes for multinationals and embassies - the State entered into a memorandum of understanding with the CIDB for the project early this year, though Chennai's building rules are clearly against construction of multistorey buildings along the stretch.

Questioning the validity of the MoU, environmentalists, heritage activists and fishermen unions have been protesting that `beautification' would wipe out not only one of the last free public stretches in Chennai but also a few thousand fishermen from the coast.

Paying little heed to the city stakeholders, the Government recently instructed the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority, nodal agency for the new Secretariat project, to modify its Development Control Rules to allow construction of multistorey buildings along the Marina.

Officials would not confirm whether the DCR were modified yet.

Under these circumstances, the Government's tough stance and silence on the QMC controversy have strengthened speculation that the multicrore new Secretariat project is a mere pathway to facilitate the Marina project for the Malaysian Government.

With the QMC issue now before the Madras High Court, the CMDA will have to wait for a government order on the new Secretariat before proceeding with it, according to sources.

On the administration front, sources said any move to displace the QMC would need parliamentary ratification ``as the University of Madras Act is a parliamentary act, and thus, any amendment would need Presidential assent''. The State had sought to transfer control of some colleges, including the QMC, from the Government to the university, but the latter was not yet informed whether an assent had been obtained, they said.

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