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(ARCHIVE) Vol. Vol. XVIII No. 12, october 1-15, 2008
A ‘hub & spokes’ approach

Could this be the way for Chennai’s growth
by 2025?

(By A Special Correspondent)

(Continued from last fortnight)

The way forward

The need of the hour is a socio-economic vision integrated with effective and efficient planning.

The concept of Mixed Zoning has the advantage of residences that exist with street-front commercial space. Retailers have the assurance that they always have customers living right above and around them, while residents have the benefit of being able to walk a short distance to get groceries and household items, or see a movie. Similarly, schools and places of work would also be clustered around the residential complex and, hence, concepts such as ‘walk to school’ and ‘walk to work’ can be promoted. However, for the full potential of mixed zoning to be realised, land use planning has to take into account all the socio-economic factors and focus on sustenance in the future rather than merely meeting the needs of today. In other words, the growth and development should be planned.

Planned Mixed Zoning would help significantly in easing the pressure on the roads created by the number of vehicles which is growing at a rate faster than that of the population itself. Yet only about 4% of land has been allocated for the purpose of additional roads in Chennai.

The ideal way forward would be the coming together of the public and private sectors through PPP ventures that focus on the following critical areas:

  • Reducing population density

  • Skilling and re-skilling of people

  • Basic hygiene and nutrition

  • Use of wetlands for organic farming

  • Use of dry lands for housing and infrastructure.

It is important to remember that we cannot leapfrog into the future in one shot. We should move forward with small steps but with a sense of urgency and purpose.

By 2025, Chennai’s population is estimated to reach about 12.5 million. Going by an ideal population density figure of about 2500 persons per sq. km., the area required by the city to sustain this increase in population and the supporting infrastructure would have to be about 5000 sq. km. and the city’s boundaries would have to expand to that extent by 2025.

Chennai would also require clustering in terms of industrial activities to implement the Planned Mixed Zoning concept. This would go a long way in taking the population load off Municipal Chennai. The clustering could be done based on the strengths of the regions and the existence of established industries in them. The idea should be to develop a network of cities and towns in the region in the form of a ‘hub and spoke’ model.

Centres of Excellence

It is possible for many parts of greater Chennai to emerge as centres of excellence on the basis of the industries that thrive in them. For instance:

Centre for Engineering Excellence: Arakkonam, functioning as a Centre of Engineering Excellence, would help companies operating in the engineering and manufacturing sectors to become more competitive. The town has one of the biggest workshops of the railways, the Engineering Workshop (EWS). Apart from that, Arakkonam is home to several core industries.

Centre for Industrial Excellence: Thiruvallur houses many industries, including a few Fortune 100 companies. Nearly 17,000 small-scale industries are successfully running in the region, some of them being wood, textile, chemical, engineering, non-metallic and leather industries.

Centre for Excellence in Electronics, Manufacturing and R&D: Sriperumbudur is getting industrialised at a rapid pace and has been attracting a lot of investment due to the proximity to the port, good infrastructure and availability of quality manpower. Many world-renowned companies have set up manufacturing facilities here. Several electronics giants are also looking to set up their R&D facilities in this region. The town is regarded as India’s answer to Shenzhen, with its growth in the manufacture of electronic components.

Centre for IT Excellence: The IT Corridor on Old Mahabalipuram Road in the southeast of Chennai houses several technology parks and provides employment to close to 300,000 people. Besides the existing Tidel Park, two more are on the anvil in the IT corridor. Chennai has India’s first operational Special Economic Zone and India’s first Integrated Business City. Spread over 1,400 acres, the private venture in Maraimalainagar is well connected by both road and rail links. It is designed to ensure the optimal performance of IT and IT Enabled Service companies.

Centre for Excellence in Automobile Engineering: Madurantakam in Chengalpattu District has several of the world’s largest automotive giants established around it. Not far from here is Oragadam in Kanchipuram District where the National Automotive Testing and R&D Infrastructure Project (NATRIP) is being established together with the production facilities of a couple of more automobile manufacturers.

Centre for Excellence in Healthcare & Medical Research: Chennai. Most of the major hospitals have a separate research institute or a medical college attached, where intensive research work is going on. Stem cell research, tissue engineering, molecular biology, manotechnology, clinical and epidemiological studies, gene therapy, research in diabetes and other branches of medical research are widely pursued. In diabetes, experts assert there is no competitor. If you browses through Indian publications you will found that around 40-50 per cent of the material comes from Chennai. There are 14 institutes working on basic research and clinical applications of stem cell, which is the largest in any metro in the country, not only in number but also in diverse areas of the speciality.

Centre for Excellence in Media & Entertainment: Chennai. The film industry here makes more than 150 Tamil movies a year. The facilities here are also used by numerous film-makers from other parts of India and from neighbouring countries. The animation industry here is also a great success, with an international demand for its facilities.

Centre for Cultural and Heritage Excellence: Kanchipuram. Apart from its historic temples, Kanchipuram is famous for its silk sarees which are woven manually. These sarees are of the highest quality, sought after throughout India.

Kanchipuram was also known in history as the ghatikasthanam or place of learning. Today, several educational institutions offer courses in engineering, arts and science and medicine, in and around Kanchi. And a library and research institute here is an Indologist’s dream.

Several other potential centres for excellence in different fields can be identified in a similar manner.

Such a ‘hub and spoke’ model would have immense benefits in terms of alleviating the existing traffic problems, improving administration, and preparing the city for the future by ensuring inclusive growth and development of the whole region.

The increased area

To support the increase in population and service the increased area, additional infrastructure, such as airports, ports, power projects, roads, housing, schools, hotels, hospitals, desalination plants and so on, would be required. The investment required to set up all this would run into billions of dollars. Assuming that two airports (at $10 bn), three ports (at $15 bn) and additional infrastructure in terms of power projects (at $10 bn), 500 MLD desalination plants (at $10 bn), roads and railway lines (at $10 bn), houses (at $10 bn), and office space, hotels, schools and hospitals (at $10 bn) are set up, the infrastructure cost would be about $75 bn. This investment in infrastructure would create a demand for entrepreneurial talent and thousands of innovators and entrepreneurs would be required. There would also be a huge requirement of skilled manpower. And all these developments would have to be effected within a short span of 17 years to serve a population of 12.5 million by 2025.

Though a significant amount would be spent on setting up the infrastructure, it is estimated that in 2025, assuming 10% savings by the people, Chennai’s GDP would amount to $150 bn, which would be about 48% of Tamil Nadu’s GSDP. This would exceed the GDPs of several nations! Once a proper administrative mechanism is in place, Chennai’s economy, through meticulous planning, would be a self-sustaining one that would propel itself on a path of high, yet sustainable growth.

The last few decades have seen a significant fall in agriculture’s share in Tamil Nadu’s GDP and the current level stands at about 17%. However, it must be remembered that about 60% of the population still depends on agriculture and allied activities and their contribution and, hence, growth in this sector is extremely important. This is possible only through the continuous pursuit of knowledge about the best practices, equipment, tools, fertilizers etc. In other words, agriculture and industry should co-exist and complement each other.

Chennai city contributes about 39% of Tamil Nadu’s GDP and the major share of this comes from outside the 181 sq km Corporation area or the city limits. Despite this, several development initiatives, such as the Metro rail project and the Metro water supply system, focus more on the Chennai city area. It is quite evident that we should focus our energy on developing the Chennai Metropolitan Area (CMA) beyond the city limits. Hence, to cover the proposed area of 5000 sq km, we would require three Metro rail systems instead of one, three Metro water projects instead of one, multiple airports and ports.

The CMA, at present, constitutes 16 municipalities, 20 town panchayats and 214 villages. When the area under the CMA is increased to about four times the present size, as proposed, and the administrative authorities are put in place, as recommended, thousands of such small bodies would come under the CMA’s wing and would benefit significantly in terms of governance and opportunities for skill development and employment.

Conclusion: To make all this possible, there should be a deep commitment to education and skill building, thereby creating rapid income mobility and reducing income inequality. Chennai has a sound base to provide the latest technology solutions to everyone in an affordable manner, thereby raising their living standards. Leadership is about the future, it is about change and it is about hope, all integrated with morality.

By giving importance to education and skill building and also creating employment opportunities, a three-pronged attack can be launched on the three evils of illiteracy, unemployment and, hence, poverty. For this the literacy level has to be upped by a whopping 20%. Going forward, Chennai could also have tie-ups with some of the leading cities in the fields of education, skill development, electronics manufacturing, IT services, automotive manufacturing etc. to facilitate sharing and assimilation of knowledge by means of exchange programmes. The city of Chennai would then emerge as a new age metropolis which would be a safe place to live in, teeming with ecologically-conscious people who will have adopted modern lifestyles without losing their cultural values and heritage. It is time for the public and private sectors to join hands and come together with a view to make Chennai a place that is liveable, loveable and also affordable by 2025.

– (Courtesy - Confederation of Indian Industry)

1. Centre for Engineering Excellence

  • Largest Engineering Workshop for Railways

  • L&T Cements, TVS, Tamil Nadu Steels, TTL, MRF Tyres

  • Sugar factories and Spinning Mills

  • Apparel Exports (Powerlooms and Handlooms)

2. Centre for Cultural and Heritage Excellence

  • Major Silk Industry

  • World Renowned Ancient Hindu Temples

  • Centre for Vedic and Spiritual Excellence

  • Private SEZs

  • Educational Institutions

3. Centre for Automobile Engineering Excellence

  • Ford, BMW, Automoble Testing facility

  • Engineering Colleges

  • Mature reserves of Flora and Fauna, MEPZ-SEZ

4. Centre for Excellence in Research and Development

  • Nuclear Power Station

  • UNESCO Heritage Centre.

  • Private SEZs and Proximity to IT giants in OMR

  • Educational Institutions

  • Proposed Port and Desal Plant near Marakkanam and Cheyyur

  • Huge Backwater Lagoons for Eco-Tourisms

5. Centre for Heritage Excellence

6. Centre for IT Excellence

7. Centre for Excellence in Electronics & Aviation Industry

  • Proposed greenfield International Airport

  • Industrial Parks like Hyundai, Nokia, Saint Gobain and Motorola

  • Educational Institutions (Engg. Colleges & Hospitals)

  • Private SEZs and NRI Satellite City

8. Centre for Industrial Excellence

  • Tidco 700 acres of SEZ

  • Industrial Parks

  • Oil Refineries

  • Thermal power, IVRCL Desalination Plant in 60 acres


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