Honey, who shrunk the Chennai’s lakes?

According to a CAG report, CMDA allowed blatant land use conversions, leading to reduction in lung space, vanishing of greenery and open space

Published: 11th July 2018 04:49 AM  |   Last Updated: 11th July 2018 04:49 AM   |  A+A-

Many urban lakes have shrunk or disappeared due to construction ● P Jawahar

Express News Service

CHENNAI: Chennai’s concrete jungle rose from 90.88 sq km in 1979 to 541.14 sq km in 2016 as Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) allowed blatant land use conversions resulting in shrinkage of water bodies and reduction in lung space due to vanishing greenery and open space, according to a report by Comptroller and Auditor General of India.

The area under water bodies and vegetation came down from 100.98 sq km to 91.31 sq km and 548.53 sq km to 442.43 sq km respectively, highlighting that CMDA planners were not prepared for such a growth in the city.While the First Master Plan and Second Master Plans projected a total increase in built-up area by 330.58 sq km (33,058 hectare) over the 50-year period between 1976 to 2026, the actual increase as worked out using satellite images over 37 years between 1979 and 2016 was 450.26 sq km pointing to large-scale illegal constructions.

According to the report, many urban lakes, which are key to water security of the city, and are flood carriers, disappeared and some shrunk. Between 1979 and 2016, the area under water bodies declined by 9.67 sq km.Velachery lake shrank over the years. Pallikaranai marshland which measured 5,000 hectares in 1975 shrank to 695 hectare in 2016 as state government allowed construction on a stretch of 500 m on either side of Rajiv Gandhi Salai.

Similarly, Adyar Estuary, at the mouth of Adyar River has shrunk due to large-scale constructions in the estuary. Mogappair lake vanished as construction was allowed on lake bed. Ambattur tank, which influences flow of Kosasthalaiyar river shrank over the years due to constructions inside the tank bed.

The state government did not enact the Flood Plain Zoning (FPZ) mandated by Central Water Commission which in 1975 circulated a model Bill. Even the Second Master Plan by CMDA’s planners did not provide for FPZ, a concept to regulate land use in the flood plains to restrict the damage caused by floods, determining extent of areas for developmental activities so that it does not affect environment.

CMDA which had formed a committee headed by its vice-chairman recommended in 2012 that a buffer zone of at least 15 m from the water body, water course as well, was required to protect the lakes. But this was ignored by planners as the planning body accepted No Objection Certificate from Water Resource Department by giving conditional approvals, which is not as per the norm of Town and Country Planning Act nor the Development regulations.The report also points out that CMDA has approved 291 layouts in Chennai Metropolitan area of which 127 were within 15 metres of waterways.

CMDA approved conversion of 9.32 hectares of water bodies

The Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority approved conversion of 9.32 hectares of water bodies as a residential zone at seven locations from 2009-2016, according to a report by Comptroller and Auditor General of India.

The report states that audit scrutiny of five cases involving five acres revealed that in three cases (0.60 hectares) the survey numbers which relate to water bodies were sub-divided by the revenue authorities and pattas granted to private individuals.

CMDA has approved the reclassification of these water bodies as primary and mixed residential zones on the strength of the ownership established through patta issued by revenue authorities though these lands were lying well within Adyar River.

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