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(ARCHIVE) Vol. Vol. XVIII No. 12, october 1-15, 2008
The people propose, Government disposes!
(By A Special Correspondent)

The Tamil Nadu Government has approved the Chennai Metropolitan Area (CMA) plan which aims by 2026 to transform the city into “a prime metropolis”. Those who had seen what was thought to be the final draft of the plan and participated in the public discussions that followed were in for a shock. The document as approved by Government appears to vary significantly from what was proposed, debated and agreed on, especially with reference to

  • Restrictions on building heights,

  • Floor space index (FSI), and

  • Protection of natural habitats.
  • This has irked those who had participated in the discussions as well as those concerned with the city’s future. It would appear that the process of public consultation was so much eyewash and Government has gone ahead with exactly what it had made up its mind to do from the very beginning.

    The builders’ lobby has welcomed the plan, especially the permitting of multistorey buildings (MSBs) along roads where they were hitherto disallowed. In addition, a relaxation of rules on the Floor Space Index permissible for each area has also been recommended. This is also expected to boost real estate development in the city. That Government has largely responded to the builders’ lobby and not the people is clear from the fact that the area surrounding the Pallikaranai marsh was initially notified in the approved master plan as agricultural/vacant space but, within two days of the plan being notified, it was changed to primary residential area.

    The Commissioner of the Corporation claims that the new plan looks at vertical development of the city which will translate into a smaller and therefore more easily manageable area to govern. A larger area, he feels, will be more difficult to administer and provide amenities for. This flies in the face of logic and in the way cities have developed all over the world. The emphasis has been on decongestion and encouraging the spreading out into suburbs. The Chennai administration itself has been doing this for some time, albeit in a half-hearted fashion. The Koyambedu vegetable market was planned as an alternative to Kothwal Chavadi. The Sattangadu iron market came as a replacement to the one in George Town, and the prison moved from Park Town to Puzhal. In the light of these, the argument in favour of congested, vertical development fails.

    Those concerned with spatial development of the city are not happy with the plan. The relaxing of Floor Space Index (FSI) norms for builders who are promoting housing for low income groups in the city is the first area of concern. In a metro where there is hardly any space on the roads for free movement, the relaxing of FSI will only mean further congestion and less scope for ventilation and easy access. This in turn means more dependence on artificial methods of lighting and cooling which will necessitate greater consumption of power. The demands that greater density in housing will place on groundwater and sewage have also not been taken into account while passing these orders. Parking space, which in recent years has become a problem of considerable magnitude, is only going to worsen with the tightly packed buildings that will come up. It is also highly doubtful if the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority can administer its rules and watch out for violations. The relaxing of FSI and allowing of virtually unlimited high-rises in the city would mean more potential for violation. It would also mean greater demand for allied infrastructure such as water, road space and electricity. Given the past track records of approvals and actions taken against violation, this would only see an administration that is not geared to handle the demands placed on it. The absence of any kind of zoning, which Chennai has adopted in the past decade or so, continues in this Plan as well. It is clear that in the entire development exercise, the quality of life in the city has received no attention.

    Even as the document speaks of inclusive development and the need to provide transport solutions, the Metro rail corridors have been left out of it. How such an important development, which will have a direct impact on city life, can be considered outside the purview of the Master Plan is a mystery. It is clear that the concept of public transport has been completely overlooked. A city with the population density of Chennai needs effective public transport if the roads are to be decongested. This sentiment was recently expressed by none other than the Finance Minister of India at a city-based event when he said that in recent years India had made the mistake of catering only to private car owners and the trend would have to change to one of effective public transport if, we were to have better cities. The Plan makes no mention of how usage of public transport is going to be encouraged.

    Another important aspect overlooked in the Plan is a new city in the south, for which the exercise of road networks and site layouts near Vandalur has already begun. It appears that the entire Plan has been an inward looking exercise with no touch with ground reality.

    From a national point of view, the Plan makes no effort to translate national policies on water, roads and slums into an integral part of the plan. It is clearly an exercise in isolation, where an administration, devoid of any planning concepts, has paid homage at the altar of real estate.

    The first Master Plan was made 33 years ago. The city was at the time divided into 96 planning zones and of them, the plans for only 56 were implemented. The balance have remained on paper. It is to be seen how soon the detailed plans at the local level, based on the new Master Plan, take off.

    Highlights of the 2nd Master Plan


    • Population estimate of Chennai Metropolitan Area by 2026 is 126 lakh

    • Housing needs estimated is 12.37 lakh units. Most of the housing needed is for the lower income

    • Additional FSI of 0.25 to private promoters for LIG/EWS housing and reservation of 10 per cent of the land where the site exceeds one hectare for development with flat size not exceeding 45 sq m each, either within the site or in a separate site within a radius of 2 km

    • The developer or promoter can sell these small dwellings only for this purpose

    • Additional FSI of 0.25 in cases of special buildings and group developments with dwelling units each not exceeding 45 sq m in floor area


    • To evolve a sustainable environment policy for Chennai in line with the National Environment Policy

    • Land Use and Environment Committee to be constituted to monitor the implementation of environment policies

    • CRZ regulations to be strictly enforced

    • Drainage

    • The lakes and water bodies will be protected from encroachments and existing encroachments will be removed

    • Local bodies to take up remediation measures in critical areas subject to annual flooding

    • Pallikkaranai swamp and the Red Hills catchment areas to be protected

    • For each local body, a micro drainage plan is to be prepared

    Traffic and transportation

    • Priority for bus transit by reservation of lanes along major arterial roads

    • To make transit system affordable to all segments of those commuting

    • Running mini-buses between railway stations, nearby bus transit corridors and residential areas

    • Introducing congestion pricing and hefty parking fees to discourage private vehicles

    • Buses to be prohibited if the operators do not have parking of their own

    • Review the adequacy of parking standards once in five years

    Building rules in 2nd Master Plan

    Floor Space Index

    • Additional FSI of 0.25 for all hospitals

    • Premium FSI of 0.50 for non-multistoreyed buildings (MSB)

    • Additional FSI of 0.25 for small building units not exceeding 480 sq.ft

    • Balcony, fire escape, staircase, lift, well, portico etc. excluded from FSI

    • Higher FSI of 2 for special buildings and group developments with dwelling units not exceeding 75 sq.m in floor area each in the MRTS influence area between Luz and Velachery

    Multi-storeyed buildings

    • Minimum extent of site for multi-storeyed buildings should not be less than 1500 square metres

    • Multi-storeyed building will be permitted with limitations on maximum FSI and maximum height of the building on a site abutting or gaining access from a public road of minimum 12m/15m in width

    • Permitting MSB in the entire Chennai Metropolitan Area

    • No height restrictions for multi-storeyed buildings abutting roads of 100 feet width and above

    Special buildings

    • Upto 6 dwelling units categorised as ordinary buildings instead of 4

    • Special buildings will be permitted on plots abutting road width of 10m

    • If the extent of the site is more than 1100 sq.m, special building for residential use will be permitted on 9m wide road

    • Special buildings up to 12 dwelling units on plots of 200 to 660 sq.m size will be permitted on 9m road

    • No restriction on number of dwellings when site extent is 1100 sq.m and above

    Group development

    • In residential developments with dwelling units exceeding 100 in number, waste management infrastructure and a non-polluting storage provision for solid waste should be provided within the premises

    • In cases of large developments where link roads have to be provided for connectivity to the adjoining land areas, through the site applied for development, the CMDA reserves the right to insist that the applicant set apart such road spaces and hand it over to the Authority.


    In this issue

    Happy Birthday, CoC
    The people propose...
    The 'hub and spokes'...
    The Parsis of Madras
    Historic residences of...
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