The present CMA covering 1,189 sq km was demarcated in 1975 and in 2018 the AIADMK government proposed it be expanded nearly eight times to 8,878 sq km by including the entire Chengalpet, Kancheepuram and Tiruvallur districts, besides Arakkonam and Nemili taluks of Ranipet district.
The plan has been gathering dust for the past three years after meetings to elicit the view of residents of Kancheepuram and Chennai were completed. While the move would facilitate creation of new cities in Chennai’s neighbourhood, urban development experts are questioning the need for an eight-fold increase in area.
Former professor of urban engineering at Anna University K P Subramanian said the expansion is in no way going to improve the quality of life of the people. “The areas proposed to be included in the CMA in Chengalpet, Tiruvallur and Kancheepuram districts have rich fertile agriculture land, lush greenery and a large number of water bodies. As per the first masterplan, for example, agriculture lands accounted for 10% of the total area in 1975. As per the second masterplan, they had shrunk to 1% in 2006. The trend is not going to be different, if the CMA is expanded,” he said.
It may not be desirable to go on expanding the area because unwieldy size results in inept management and inefficient operations, he said. “Small is always smarter,” he added.
Pointing out that Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) plays only a reactive role in enforcement of regulations for want of manpower and lack of institutional network, he charged that violations are rampant and enforcement actions few and far between. “Out of the four proposed new towns in the previous masterplans, only Maraimalai Nagar was developed. No initiative has been taken so far to develop the other three towns [Gummudipoondi, Sriperumbudur and Thiruvallur],” he added.
R Radhakrishnan, former national president of Builders Association of India, said that the expansion could bear fruit only if the planning authority bans high rises in the core areas of Chennai, which needs to be connected with rapid transport systems to the suburbs. “Otherwise, it will lead to congestion within the core areas, defeating the objective of expansion,” he said.
S Murugaiyan, president of Thirunindravur Krishnapuram Residents Welfare Association, said that the presence of these western suburbs in the CMA has not brought any benefits. “We are yet to get underground sewage system or piped metrowater,” he said.
However, housing and urban development department sources said expanding the CMA will help in regulated growth. For example, agriculture land cannot be easily converted as there will be a process that includes seeking suggestions and objections from the public, said an official.