The Chennai Corporation appears to have finally woken up to the fact that it has a problem, an urban nightmare in the form of T Nagar. It had asked the city-based firm of Jones Lang LaSalle Meghraj in collaboration with Hong Kong based Townland Consultants to submit a report on how to make the area more friendly to all stakeholders and less congested. The report has since been submitted and public consultations have begun.

Theyagaroya Nagar or T Nagar as it is better known, is an area that most people in the city would agree symbolises chaos. While it may be a shoppers’ paradise years of uncontrolled growth have made it an urban nightmare. The area near Panagal Park also serves as a vital traffic link and with increasing traffic density is choked for the better part of the day. One hundred thousand footfalls and three times that many vehicles moving around contribute to pollution making this the area with the maximum air-borne particulate matter in the whole city. Residents of the area have rightly declared that living there is a most stressful experience. In the past few years the area has also witnessed fire accidents caused by faulty planning of buildings. It is also well-known for illegal extensions and encroachments which are periodically removed in high-profile drives.

The inception plan document by the consultants envisages utilisation of T Nagar’s space in multiple levels. Rightfully recognising that even shoppers here view the place as somewhere to be rushed into and rushed out of in as short a time frame as possible, the plan calls for transit-oriented development. It states that one of the keys to making this a less stressed area is to plan for a good mass transport system which will ensure that transiting vehicles keep moving smoothly. It envisages a multi-level solution with malls atop flyovers, elevated areas, demarcated pedestrian walkways and traffic-calm localities. It aims to make T Nagar an aerial city.

The public consultation exercise which began a few days ago highlighted several ground realities that need to be faced before the aerial city takes off. Residents have complained that they have not been considered as stakeholders as the plan talks of shops, shoppers, vehicle-users, hawkers and the staff of the establishments in the neighbourhood. They feel that the first step ought to be better traffic management in the area. Some called for the shifting of the bus terminus in T Nagar to Saidapet. This was immediately shot down by the Transport officials present. Such conflicts among the stakeholders will have to be resolved if any plan for improving T Nagar is to fructify. An inclusive solution is what will really help but the present plan looks for segregating of the various stakeholders.

Interestingly, while the first public consultation saw the participation by the Mayor, the Commissioner of the Corporation, police officers, Councillors and representatives of Metrowater, the CMDA was conspicuous by its absence. The reason given was that the CMDA has already given its nod and considers this to be a matter of local area development. How they can consider this to be so when the proposed changes will affect the Master Plan of the city is mysterious.

The plan is in its first stage of development. After public consultations it is expected to be tabled in the Corporation by June and then handed over to the Tamil Nadu Urban Infrastructure Financial Services Limited which will be the special purpose vehicle to oversee the development. The plan document is expected to soon be put up on the websites of the Corporation and the TNUIFSL.