CHENNAI: The fire accident at a godown on Narayana Mudali Street at Sowcarpet on Monday the hardship experienced by fire tenders to reach the spot in time should be an eye-opener to the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) and Chennai Corporation to redevelop the age-old settlement, according to M G Deivasahayam, a monitoring committee member.
Deivasahayam told Express that it was high time that the government looked at redeveloping the residential areas in Sowcarpet, Parrys, T Nagar, Kodambakkam and other old-settlements so that major tragedies could be avoided.
The narrow lanes of Sowcarpet, which has several multi-storied residential buildings, has been converted into a commercial zone with shops and godowns operating from these areas. This delayed the arrival of fire-tenders at the spot. Eyewitnesses said fire-engines faced difficulty in entering the narrow street which was lined with vehicles, including tricycles, autorickshaws and two-wheelers.
“The case is more or less similar to T Nagar,” Deivasahayam said. He said that the area requires re-development as how it was being done in T Nagar. However, redevelopment is happening only in the commercial areas of T Nagar.
“We have to look at residential areas which have been converted into commercial areas,” he added.
Most buildings in Sowcarpet area violate development control rules, including floor space index and front, side and rear setbacks. Many of them don’t have fire fighting equipment like in the case of T Nagar buildings.
“It is as if the area is waiting for a tragedy to happen,” cautioned an urban planner. The incident has taken place at a time when the CMDA is in a dilemma to act against illegal buildings, after the High Court quashed two Government Orders that allowed regularisation of illegal buildings built till July 1, 2007.
Deivasahayam, who opposed the two GOs, said there is a need to demolish the illegal buildings rather than locking and sealing them as suggested by Justice Mohan committee.
Citing the example of demolition of Mumbai Campa Cola Society case, Deivasahayam said that Chennai authorities should take a cue from the incident and act against illegal buildings. He said there is no point in dragging the issue so that the violators could benefit.
According to a rough estimate that there are about three lakh unauthorised buildings in the State. Even the Madras HC has pointed out that these numbers were from the year 2000, which would mean the actual numbers in 2014 would have gone up manifold.