Chennai: Left in the lurch

A self-sustaining town project on forest land? Truck terminus on a waterbody?
An under-construction bridge for MRTS Phase II
An under-construction bridge for MRTS Phase II

CHENNAI: It was in 2008 that the much-touted Mass Rapid Transit System (MRTS) Phase-II extension project was announced. After nearly a decade, the State government is still trying to wrest control of a 500-metre stretch from landowners, who have moved courts. The project cost has shot up to Rs 919 crore from the initial Rs 495.74 crore but there is no respite for the State government, as it is yet to get a favourable order from the court to access the land.

“The issue was of compensation to landowners. We are hoping for a favourable order from court,” an official said. MRTS is not the only infrastructure project that has been delayed. Most projects, which were announced in the State assembly, remain only on paper. The blame is attributed to the officials for failing to review the projects continuously. Moreover, not doing their homework before identifying probable sites for projects too figures on the list of accusations.

Madhavaram bus terminus is nearing completion, after many delays | D SAMPATHKUMAR  
Madhavaram bus terminus is nearing completion, after many delays | D SAMPATHKUMAR  

The bus terminus for south-bound buses in the State and those for north were announced nearly seven years ago (2011). Land has been an issue for both. Madhavaram bus terminus, initially put on hold as the feasibility report was not favourable, was later sanctioned for triple the original cost. However, the deadline to launch the project has been extended to June from April.The bus terminus for south-bound buses has been facing untold miseries. The site has kept changing at the expense of progress. The latest proposed site is at Kilambakkam, where an archaeological site exists, and a senior official at the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) said the government was awaiting a ‘no objection certificate’ from the Archaeological Survey of India to start the work.

Similarly, the Thirumazhisai Satellite Township Project was conceived on September 8, 2011, spread over 311.05 acres in Chembarambakkam, Kuthambakkam, Parvatharajapuram, Narasingapuram and Vellavedu villages near Thirumazhisai on Chennai-Bengaluru National Highway for `2,160 crore. The project is yet to materialise due to land acquisition issues. Now, the housing department is trying to implement the project on 130.17 acres.

Fortnightly reviews
Another project caught in legal tangle is the 19km Maduravoyal-Chennai Port Elevated Corridor Project, initially pegged at Rs 1,345 crore. The project  stalled for the past five years is likely to be revived with the State government giving its nod. The State government is also concerned over the delay in implementing the projects. According to highly places sources, the State government has decided to review pending projects every fortnight now. “Usually, a high-level committee, headed by Chief Secretary, reviews around 100 projects every six months. Since the review has been ineffective, plan is to have frequent follow-ups by the Chief Secretary and departmental review by secretaries,” the source added.

Officials claim that due to land acquisition and related issues like rehabilitation and resettlement of project-affected families, awarding of fair compensation to landowners under the new Land Acquisition Act and execution of projects on schedule pose a huge challenge. However, some projects, which were announced in the Assembly, have failed to make any headway as it was never feasible. Development of 222 acres at Kadambur near Chennai as a self-sustaining neighborhood failed to see the light of the day as the project was announced on forest land. 

Similarly, the proposed truck terminal, which was earlier announced in Ernavur in 2015, is yet to see the light of day as the site is still to be finalized. Initially, the site was announced on a watercourse opposite Sathangadu Iron and Steel market. It was later shelved.The `356 crore Outer Ring Road project has also been delayed due to land acquisition woes. Although the first phase is complete, the second is likely to be completed by December 2018. Another project that is yet to be realised is the 150 MLD desalination plant for Chennai. The administrative sanction was given way back in 2015. It is learnt that technical bids have been invited. Similar is the case with the 400 MLD desalination project be funded by Japan International Cooperation Agency.

Twists, turns and cost overruns
Outer Ring Road
Administrative sanction: 1995
Status: Phase I completed
Second Phase: To be completed by December 2018
Project cost for Phase I: `1,081.40 cr
Project cost for Phase II: `1,075 cr
MRTS Phase II Extension
Project commenced: April 2008
Original cost: `495.74 cr
Current cost: `919 cr
Cause for delay: Land acquisition
Maduravoyal-Chennai Port Elevated Corridor project
Approval date: May 2009
Completion date (envisaged): September 2013
Work stopped: March 2012
Initial cost: `1,345 crore
Work completed till now: 14.79%
Project cost overrun: Likely to be above `4,000 cr
Bus terminus for 
South-bound buses
Announced in Assembly: 2011
Site identified: Kilambakkam
Cost of Project: `321 cr
Detailed Project Report: Being prepared

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