That, we must admit, is a good headline for the entire national situation, but as we are a publication devoted to the interests of Madras that is Chennai, we say that this is true of city matters too – be it in planning or implementation. Those in charge of the city’s well-being appear to be having no long-term strategy to work on, and for matters on which we already have well-founded laws, there is very poor implementation.
Take the case of illegal constructions. We have very clear rules on Floor-Space Index, clearances between buildings, and fire safety. But in reality very few of these are ever implemented. What should be remembered is that every building needs to get permission before it is constructed and, during and after the execution, there has to be inspection and certification by the authorities. It is fairly well known that plans that are submitted for approval differ widely from what is finally built, yet completion certificates are issued for these structures that flout laws with impunity.
The question is, why and how are these buildings allowed to be built? Why don’t the authorities nip the problem in the bud as soon as the violation is detected? And when the Courts recognise and certify a building to be in gross violation of norms, why are those who gave the approvals in the first place allowed to go scot free? Unless the officers who bend the rules are taken to task, how do we expect them to follow the law in future? The net result, violations are the norm and the city suffers.
Do those in charge of planning really have a long-term traffic management plan in place? If so, why are they allowing 400 new vehicles to be added to the city each day? Surely by now it must be fairly clear to everyone concerned that the space available for parking and road space for driving are completely exhausted. In this context, how is it fair for multi-storied buildings to insist that visitors should park their vehicles on the road outside? Is that not a taking over of public space by a private building? And when permissions are given for construction, why is the load on neighbouring roads not analysed? A classic example is the rapid construction that is happening in MRC Nagar and the Quibble Island neighbourhood. Soon, all the buildings here will be complete and occupied but there will be no space on the roads to even move around. What Chennai needs are strict restrictions on the number of vehicles per building even if it happens at the cost of economic prosperity. The latter is a short-term gain as compared to the quality of life we are losing.
Lastly, the new areas of the city, the posh localities in the South, all look good on paper and in the advertisements. But they appear to have even worse problems than the old localities. Narrow and badly maintained roads, poor lay-outs, non-existent drains and bad public transport service are the norm. Is it not an irony that areas such as Mylapore, T’Nagar and Adyar are even now considered better off than the latest developments when the latter ought to be having the edge with all modern amenities? Why is it that basic necessities are being given the go-by and a piece of land is only being looked at for its commercial potential and not for the civic comfort it ought to provide?
Somewhere along the way, Chennai appears to have lost the plot. To those watching the city for long, this was a collapse that was evident from quite some time back. The only question now is, will those in charge wake up and change their ways before it is too late?