Chennai: Bid to convert water bodies into residential zones curbed; experts push for audit on conditional approvals

Following the regime change, officials had been taking steps to deny approvals where attempts were made to convert waterbodies into residential zones.
Cooum river near Madhuravoyal in Chennai | Shiba Prasad Sahu
Cooum river near Madhuravoyal in Chennai | Shiba Prasad Sahu

CHENNAI: Over the years, Chennai has become prone to both floods and water crises due to frequent reclassification of waterbodies across the city to pave way for residential use. However, following the regime change, officials had been taking steps to deny approvals where attempts were made to convert waterbodies into residential zones.

According to information available with TNIE, the first authority meeting under the DMK regime cracked down on attempts that took place in connivance with officials of Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority  (CMDA) and Public Works Department, who give conditional approvals. A total of three planning permissions were refused.

The first one pertains to 2.6 acres at Moonramkatalai village in Kancheepuram district. It is learned the site lies in a waterbody. Similarly, another application, which was denied permission, was to reclassify the Adyar River margin into Primary residential use in Nandambakkam. The company had applied twice, in 2005 and 2009; both times the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority rejected the applications. The proposal was taken up again after 14 years after the developer approached the then housing secretary with claims that he has got patta and No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the Public Works Department, which is the custodian of the river. The then housing secretary reportedly urged the CMDA to consider the case afresh after conducting a site inspection. But with the change of guard in both CMDA and Housing Department, the bid to reclassify the land was denied at the authority meeting. Similarly, another proposal to convert a kulam near Nanmangalam Road and Mettu Street at Nemilichery in Pallavaram too was denied permission.

A Comptroller and Auditor General report after evaluating the cause for 2015 floods stated that the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority should not allow development along waterbodies without ensuring ameliorating measures are taken by the developers to prevent the impact of such developments. The system of conditional approvals should be stopped forthwith. Recently, there have been curbs on conditional approval with action being taken against erring officials. The applications pertain to the 1999 regularisation scheme. Sources said that top officials should order an audit of all the conditional approvals given by officials and take them to the task.

Association of Professional Town Planners (APTP) president K M Sadanand alleged around 20 to 30 per cent of applications submitted pertain to the reclassification of waterbodies for residential use in the last 10 years. He said every five years the Master Plan should be reviewed and updated. The reclassification is not appearing on the land use plan. There is no separate list for reclassification of land use on the CMDA master plan map and website, he added.

All eyes are now on the Third Master Plan and Sadanand hoped it is being prepared scientifically and reviewed regularly and updated. Unlike the Second Master Plan, which is hardly updated to include Chennai Metro, the question is how viable will the Third Master  Plan be as huge development activities are being taken in the city.

1. Cooum and Adyar rivers play a major role during floods, collects surplus water from 75 and 450 tanks in their respective catchments
2. The reduction in water holding capacity of the city's surface is due to the loss of green cover. This has reduced groundwater recharge
3. Uncontrolled urban sprawl and loss of natural drainage are some of the main causes of flooding
4. Drainage channels have been blocked and urban lakes filled and encroached
5. Canals degraded and polluted, heavily silted and narrowed.
6. There is a lack of planning and regulatory controls to prevent development in old tank beds
7.  Absence of unified flood control implementing agency that could integrate functions of Corporation, Development Authority, Public Works  Department, and Slum Clearance Board and Housing Board

Related Stories

No stories found.

The New Indian Express