With increasing migration to the city, the population was to double between 1941 and 1951, from 7.77 to 14.16 lakhs. By then the city had to be expanded and 19 sq miles comprising 28 towns and villages and adding 65 per cent to the area, were brought within city limits. Chief among these were Adyar, Guindy, Saidapet, West Mambalam, Kodambakkam, Aminjikarai and Ayanavaram. In 1944, JPL Shenoy, then Commissioner of the Corporation, conceived the idea of a big housing colony in the Aminjikarai area. He however chose to leave the Corporation in 1947 before the plans were finalised. It was left to C Narasimham, who succeeded him as Commissioner, to see the scheme through and also ensure that it was named Shenoy Nagar, “a rich and proper tribute to his services.”
Narasimham was to oversee another development – Gandhi Nagar. The city which had always had the Adyar river as its municipal boundary, extended beyond it for the first time in 1945. The Minister for Local Administration, Daniel Thomas felt that the area immediately south of the river would be ideal for a middle-class housing colony. The space, 150 acres, belonged to the Bishopric of Madras. The negotiations were conducted by Narasimham who settled on a price of Rs 17 lakhs for 136 acres, the balance being left to the Church and in particular, St Patrick’s school which had been in the area since 1875. The Premier of Madras, Omandur Ramaswami Reddiar, laid the foundation stone on January 23, 1948 and the proposed housing colony was named Gandhi Gram, later changed to Gandhi Nagar. A year later, with Gandhi Nagar becoming a popular destination, the city extended further with the various Nagars of Adyar coming into existence, a process that continued well into the 1970s.
The next big development was Anna Nagar, named after former Chief Minister, CN Annadurai. Developed in the early 1970s by the Tamil Nadu Housing Board, it spans an area of 5 sq km and is located on the site of Naduvakkarai and Mullam villages. Ashok Nagar and KK Nagar were also areas almost simultaneously developed by the Board.
The addition of Velacheri and Tiruvanmiyur in the 1980s, doubled the area of the city since 1871 but the population had grown to 33 lakhs, a fivefold growth in fifty years! From being a city of vast open spaces we rapidly became a congested metro, with a colossal shortage of all infrastructure and a rapid fall in quality of life. This can only be attributed to lack of planning and foresight by the authorities concerned. In October 2011, the expansion process was once again initiated as we noted in the beginning of this article. But with all the acquired areas being densely populated already, perhaps it is time for Chennai to look for satellite townships in greenfield locations.