The impasse over what can be done to alleviate congestion in T’Nagar continues with no immediate solution in sight. The Corporation has done an about-turn on its proposal for a multi-level car parking facility adjoining Panagal Park. This is the third time the idea has been proposed and then shelved. All hope is now pinned on a skywalk and improved pedestrian facilities in the area. In the meanwhile, nothing much has been done to tackle the original menace, and the chief reason for the present mess the area finds itself in – illegal constructions. Local residents are, however, relentlessly fighting the issue.
The multi-level parking facility was proposed decades ago and has periodically been revived as and when our civic body feels something ought to be done at T’Nagar. Twice it made it to the tendering stage but no bidder evinced any interest. This time it has been shelved on the grounds that activists had expressed concern over the impact of the parking lot on the ecology of Panagal Park.
Now concerns over ecology have generally never motivated the Government to change its plans. But it emerges in this case that the World Bank, whose funds the Corporation hopes to tap for several of its projects, has laid stringent norms on environmental impact and that has prompted this change of heart. The latest buzz is that the idea has not been shelved entirely and the hunt is on for another location in the vicinity. Finding that can be tough as this is one of the most congested areas in the city.
The next bright hope appears to be the pedestrianisation of the area. Budgeted at Rs. 83 crore, this 1.4km long, 22 metre wide walkway along Sir Theagaroya Road will encourage the use of non-motorised transport and have public utilities such as toilets. Another ambitious plan is a 600 metre skywalk that will connect the Mambalam Railway Station to the T’Nagar bus depot. Estimated to cost Rs. 22 crore, the idea has been presented at public consultations and work is to begin in four months’ time.
But what of the actual issue – the proliferation of illegal constructions that has resulted in the present nightmare? That has been left to the residents of the area to fight. The T’Nagar Residents’ Welfare Association has submitted a memorandum to the Justice S. Rajeswaran Committee, which has been formed at the instance of the High Court of Madras. Its mandate is to frame guidelines for the implementation of Section 113C of the Tamil Nadu Town and Country Planning Act 2013. This Section pertains to the regularisation, on the payment of a fee, of all violations up to the year 2007.
This bringing forward of the cut-off year is widely seen as a ploy to overcome several High Court and Supreme Court judgements that have consistently held that any violation after the one-time amnesty of 1999 cannot be condoned. All such structures would have to be demolished if the instructions of the Court are to be implemented. This is obviously not in anyone’s interest other than probably that of the local residents and, so, it is being given short shrift. Interestingly, the scope of the Committee is yet to be decided and the matter may get referred to Court once again for clarifications.
Those residing in T’Nagar have, however, not lost hope. They have written to the Committee stating that Section 113C ought not to be allowed. They are also demanding punitive action against those who have violated all rules in putting up huge shopping complexes in connivance with officials. Whether their plea will be heard and, more importantly, whether it will have any effect is to be seen.