For long, Chengalpattu has remained in the shadow of Kancheepuram despite witnessing phenomenal residential and industrial growth thanks to its good connectivity with Chennai through Grand Southern Trunk (GST) Road. Not much changed even after July 2019, when the then Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami approved the formation of the new Chengalpattu district and made the eponymous town its headquarters.
The Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) has proposed the formation of five new townships on the peripheries of the expanded Chennai city region, which covers 5,094 sq.km. Of the five new towns, Chengalpattu town is the largest.
Through this, the CMDA hopes to reign in the unbridled construction activities and unorganised infrastructure development and develop the town on its terms.
The State government has also given its assent for the preparation of a master plan for the two townships of Chengalpattu and Thirumazhisai and issued Government Orders (G.O.s). The CMDA is awaiting G.O.s for three more townships — Kancheepuram, Tiruvallur and Minjur — which they expect to be published by the end of this year.
Anshul Mishra, Member Secretary, CMDA, explained the details of the new master plan for Chengalpattu. He said the New Town Development Plan has considered creating the township comprehensively and holistically, fulfilling the socio-economic and environmental criteria.
The infrastructure development in the town will happen in an orderly fashion and not as and when needs arise. He said all these years, the authority had been developing facilities based on the individual requirement of localities, but this time, it had a holistic and sustainable road map planned for the new township.
Measuring a mere 6 sq.km in 1974, Chengalpattu is set to house the district headquarters and expand to cover 136 sq.km. The new town will include 60 other villages in Thirukazhukundram, Thiruporur and Chengalpattu taluks.
Mr. Mishra said the initial survey conducted by the CMDA had found the new township would have 22% of forested areas, 8% waterbodies and the remaining 70% land area. The New Town Development Plan will rectify the haphazard growth that has already occurred due to a lack of application in planning strategies.
With Chengalpattu already having good road and rail infrastructure in addition to several infrastructure projects in the execution and planning stages, the plan aims to integrate them all into its overall vision.
It will also tap into the potential of residential, commercial, industrial and institutional activities in an organised manner along GST Road, Chengalpattu-Thiruporur corridor and Chengalpattu-Walajabad corridor.
This will help regulate development, and the successful integration of Mahindra City into the township will be an added attraction.
The authority has found that currently, the structure lacks major economic activities and the presence of hillocks along the major road corridors hampers the growth of townships.
CMDA will take up multi-sectoral integration to create a well-connected road grid, augment water resources, provide segregated solid waste management, help in heritage conservation and tourism and look at waterfront development. Above all, climate-resilient aspects will also be factored in.
The proposed township already has a dependable suburban train service connecting Chennai and Chengalpattu. The upcoming Kilambakkam bus terminus and a peripheral ring road connecting Kancheepuram, Thiruporur and Thirukazhukundram also augment its connectivity.
In the future, the Chengalpattu district will plan for widening of GST Road from four to eight lanes, a four-lane elevated corridor from Chennai airport to the town and the development of other peripheral roads.
Plans are on the anvil to set up another bus terminus at Venpakkam and create a transport hub next to Tambaram. The Kolavai lake, in the middle of the town, will be rejuvenated, making it a potential place for tourism development.
Land pooling options
While the CMDA is yet to finalise the mode for acquiring lands for forming a grid of well-linked roads, land pooling might be the answer. The provision for land pooling and distribution of Transferable Development Rights (TDRs) as compensation instead of the normal monetary compensation has been incorporated into the Master Plan Rules for infrastructure development.
However, with the present TDR system being a failure, not making the parting of lands attractive, the CMDA plans to tweak it based on the Hyderabad model, which has reportedly been a success.
The development of the master plan for the township is set to begin shortly, with the CMDA calling for tenders to select a consultant for preparing the Detailed Project Report (DPR). It plans to ensure a growth-centric approach through the new development plan as growth has been rudimentary in the periphery of the city.
To ameliorate the issue of various developments happening at different localities, the authority as part of the initial study identified primary and secondary-influence regions based on the different commercial characteristics of the villages.
In the primary-influence zone, the localities situated within a 10-km radius of Kattankulathur, Maraimalai Nagar, Padappai, Oragadam, Salavakkam, Thirupuliyam and Walajabad, have been predominantly characterised by residential use, automobile factories and information technology (IT) industries.
The secondary influence regions, comprising Vandalur, Perungalathur, Kelambakkam, Thiruporur, Mahabalipuram, and Madurantakam, have been identified to contain industrial and warehousing activities, with agricultural fields dominating the south and south-western regions.
Proposals in the influence zone include TIDCO’s Fintech City planned in Kavanur and the multi-sector park proposed on 1,500 acres of land in Padalam. The study for both the projects are under way though not finalised.
With the satellite towns planned in the expanded part of the Chennai Metropolitan Area, the development of the five townships would be covered by the amendments to the rules pertaining to the master plan, which has set out an exhaustive number of infrastructure facilities to be created.
There are plans to locate prominent tourism opportunities around the Kolavai lake in Chengalpattu. The first stage is the renovation of the lake by the Water Resources Department (WRD) — both as a recreational space and source of potable water for the new township and the city.
Located about 50 km from Chennai, the lake adjoining the railway station has so far been polluted with sewage from nearby towns and villages.
The WRD has started preliminary work to remove the sludge from the foreshore of the lake. With a capacity to store nearly 476 million cubic feet of water, the lake has water during all seasons. Besides its own catchment areas and surrounding hillocks, the lake is fed by 25 tanks upstream, including Paranur, Pulipakkam and Kunnavakkam.
The department has chalked out a ₹55-crore project to restore the waterbody. Besides deepening and desilting to increase its storage capacity, the department will create recreational facilities, including a park, near the bund.
The old flood control regulator will be replaced. Officials said the lake is home to several migratory birds and two islands or mud flats would be constructed keeping this in view.
“We are planning to build two boat jetties on the lines of what we have at Paruthipattu lake in Avadi. A pedestrian bridge will be built to reach various viewpoints,” an official said.
As the lake has a storage of 230 mcft, the department has been unable to take up deepening or desilting work. The Southern Railway’s permission has been sought for dewatering the lake as it abuts the railway line. Plugging of sewage inflows will be crucial to rejuvenate the lake, experts said. There are six major sewage outfalls into the lake.
The amendments to the master plan for which the G.O. was issued recently have provisions for a compatible transit-oriented development, integrating infrastructure for non-motorised commuters to reduce the carbon footprint, construction of macro and micro-drains, flood inundation and climate-hazard mapping, disaster and risk management plan, measures for the protection of eco-sensitive areas, encouraging energy efficient installations and reclamation of polluted and under-utilised lands.
The amendment also envisages coordination by the arms of various departments, which include a total of 101 departments and autonomous bodies, to function as a single unit for the success of the new development plan.
Mr. Mishra said the idea of having new towns around the expanded parts of Chennai was to create infrastructure facilities on a par with the core areas so as to lessen the burden of the infrastructure there.
Urban planners pointed out that with the Greater Chennai Corporation having reached a stasis in terms of expansion and the local bodies administering the villages in the peripheries suffering from inadequate financial capabilities, the new towns could have better access to funds from the State government.
A. Srivathsan, an expert in urban planning, said the setting up of the new Chengalpattu township was a welcome move as long as it does not become an appendage of Chennai. The city, having now expanded to more than 5,000 sq.km, is more a region than a city.
Planners should focus on poly-centric towns with good infrastructure facilities rather than developing a mono-centric city to help prevent unplanned urban sprawls.
However, he cautions that while a well-planned city is the way forward, proper implementation will be the key. That too, in areas like Chengalpattu, which has fertile agricultural lands and waterbodies, striking a balance between urbanisation and safeguarding agricultural activity would be crucial to preserve economic productivity.
The CMDA is yet to decide on the exact administrative setup, modelled after the GCC, to govern the proposed township of Chengalpattu, which will ultimately be integral in ensuring proper implementation.