CHENNAI: In a matter of four years, as many as 11 open spaces in Chennai have been converted into residential and commercial establishments. This raises the question whether the main planning authority of the city, Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) is making Chennai more and more of a concrete jungle by cutting down such green spaces.
This was revealed by an RTI reply given by the CMDA on Tuesday (August 6) to the civic-rights NGO Arappor Iyakkam. The CMDA said between 2015 and 2018, 11 such open space and recreational land have been reclassified by CMDA enabling huge gated communities and shops to be constructed on such spaces.They were found in Mylapore, Thiruvanmiyur, Ambattur, Tondiarpet, and Perambur.
David Manohar, an activist from Arappor Iyakkam, who filed the RTI application, accused the CMDA of failing to implement the regulations it had created. “When a builder plans construction in a layout, they are mandated to keep aside a certain portion of land as a part of Open Space Reservation or as recreational land. But if the CMDA reclassifies this and enables construction on this, the whole point of this regulation is lost. Why do we need a planning authority at all, if rules are grossly violated ?” he added.
On such example is the construction of a gated community on 160 acres of open space recreational land near Thiruvanmiyur MRTS station. Along Loop Road at Nochikuppam in Santhome, Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board
has built a tenement for the fisherfolk on three acres of recreational land. Also, in Thirumullaivoyal near Avadi, 17 acres of recreational land had been reclassified by CMDA for converting it into an institutional zone back in 2015. In an already thickly populated area like Mylapore, 5.3 areas of recreational space was converted into a mixed residential zone by CMDA in 2018.
Even land kept aside for essential establishments like schools have not been spared. They have been reclassified by CMDA to make way for apartments. Two such cases were found in Thiruvanmiyur, a residential hub in South Chennai. On 1st Seaward Street in Thiruvanmiyur, land allocated by Tamil Nadu Housing Board for a nursery school was reclassified into a primary residential zone in 2017 on which an apartment has been built now. In the same locality, 0.4 acres kept aside to build a school was reclassified to make way for the construction of residential buildings.
Also, recently on August 3, CMDA published a list of 14 applications for reclassification of land use, out of which one was a recreational land and the other a school site. Inspector of Police of Chetpet police station had applied for the recreational land at Egmore to be reclassified into an institutional zone for the construction of a police station.
Though land for developing public facilities like Metro Rail, MRTS and Amma Canteens are required, activists said the state government should have foreseen this and kept aside space for this purpose, instead of utilising spaces meant for parks and schools. “This is indeed a complicated issue as one cannot criticize the government’s effort for the betterment of the underprivileged and the general public. But at the same time if they make a master plan for a city, they should stick to it. They should plan accordingly before a big boom of development occurs, not after,” said Sridhar Venkataraman, a social activist, referring to the recent construction of a police station on a lake in Sholinganallur.
A CMDA official said that, “We don’t give permission for any kind of construction on OSR land. All builders are mandated to keep aside 10 percent of their layout as OSR land. This is left untouched. But for enabling development we are in need of more space and as a result we have to use recreational land which is mostly given for residential