CMDA all for a denser city – new FSI rules give open spaces the go by


With the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority deciding to go ahead with the sanction for premium floor space index (FSI) within the city, Chennai is all set for more constructions and greater congestion in the metropolitan area. Strangely this sanction has been given despite a committee of experts categorically rejecting such a proposal. It is significant that the state government has all along been in favour of a premium FSI within the city and finally that is exactly what the CMDA decided to go ahead with.


The FSI is the ratio of the built up area to the total area of the plot on which the building stands. Presently the figure stands at 1.5 for ordinary buildings and 2.5 for multi-storey buildings in the metropolitan area. The second master plan of the city proposed a premium FSI within the city which will allow for an additional 0.5 FSI for special buildings and 1.0 FSI for multi-storey buildings. This additional sanction would be obtained on payment of a fee, the details of which are yet to be finalised.


With the city already facing severe congestion and stress in terms of general infrastructure, road space and water supply, this was considered an undesirable development by those concerned with quality of life within the city. The CMDA constituted an experts committee which met in January and rejected such a proposal. The main argument behind the rejection was that the city is dense even now and the impact of premium FSI for a particular plot is felt by all adjacent plots and the street on which the property stands. The present infrastructure in the city, felt the committee, was wholly inadequate to cater to premium FSI. On the other hand, such a policy the committee felt, could be encouraged in the suburbs.


The Government however chose not to accept the recommendation of the committee. The government is of the view that greater space is needed within the city for development and not in the suburbs. The government was perhaps not aware that such a view is outmoded and completely against present day city development plans internationally, where decongestion is the buzzword. The recommendation of the committee was consequently ‘returned’ for reconsideration.


That apparently is governmentspeak for a complete volte face. Within a week of its receipt, the CMDA gave the go ahead for premium FSI within the city. The 23 member authority toed the government line and gave sanction for this in the area of 1,189 sq km falling under one corporation, 16 municipalities, 20 town panchayats and 214 villages in Chennai, Kancheepuram and Tiruvallur districts. That it chose to overrule a committee of experts nominated by itself speaks volumes for how the CMDA functions.


This is yet another instance of ground reality not being taken into consideration and the prevailing of pure commercial interests. A higher FSI will mean more vertical development, cutting off sunlight and ventilation leading to power hungry buildings that will be energy inefficient. There will be considerably increased stress on public transport and civic amenities. But all this appears to have no impact on the way the government thinks and acts.