Second Master Plan – Flawed but frozen
The Government held a two day seminar on the Second Master Plan for Chennai Metropolitan Area over 31st October and 1st November. While it was ostensibly meant to discuss the plan which will be the blueprint for the city’s development till 2026, it was largely a futile exercise for the Government has already notified the plan. It was also made clear during the inaugural address itself that the Government was not willing to make any further changes to the plan, no matter what recommendations emerged from the seminar. The points that were discussed were however worth noting, for they highlighted the areas in which the entire plan was inadequate and needed to be improved.
Some of the loopholes in the master plan which were pointed out by those attending include:
- Making the zonal and regional development plans on a priority: The earlier master plan, which was made over 30 years ago, saw detailed development and implementation in only 56 out of the 96 zones that it covered. In the light of this, it is absolutely necessary that the master plan devolves into the regional plans on a priority basis. But at present the Government has not set any deadline for this. It is vital that plans are made early as several of the areas are bursting at the seams with unplanned development.
- Drainage and Waste Disposal: It was felt that the Master Plan has no detailed thought on how to handle this. The continued use of Perungudi and Kodungaiyur as dumping yards despite several protests from locals has not spurred the government to take action and look at modern, pollution free methods of waste disposal. Even the basic step of segregation at source has not been implemented. The attendees also pointed out that a master drain network needs to be worked out between the Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board (CWSSB), the PWD and the CMDA.
- Pallikaranai: The Plan has not demarcated this area as a reserve and the place is subject to development. Whatever has been done in the past has resulted in problems of flooding during the rainy season. It was recommended that a canal be built to drain the surplus water from the marsh to the sea.
- Water Supply: The importance of preventing any further development in the Red Hills area was stressed. As this is the prime source of water for the city, it was emphasised that this area should be out of bounds for development.
- Problems of affordable housing: Given that the Master Plan talks all the while about making the city people friendly, it has really not addressed the issue of affordable housing and how it plans to bring this about. In fact no thought has been given to this.
- Listing and Protection of Heritage Buildings: The recommendation on Transfer of Development Rights that the Master Plan contains, really has no teeth as it fails to explain how this will translate into reality. As a consequence, the city’s heritage, both built and natural is continuously under threat.
- Reactions of Government departments: It was evident that even other departments of the Government were not very clear or happy with what had been notified. The police have complained about the inadequacy of parking space norms and housing departments have asked for greater clarity.
Given such feedback, it is most surprising that the CMDA has categorically stated that no further modifications in the Master Plan were possible. Even here there were contradictions. The Minister in charge, in his valedictory speech said exactly the opposite and agreed to incorporate what was feasible. With such contrasts and conflicts, can the Master Plan be effective?