‘Structured, inclusive urban growth, a must’- DT Next – 15th Nov’16

Rapid urbanisation has brought many challenges to the fore. Even as the debate rages on horizontal or vertical growth, the varied issues that need to be contended with include sustainability, growth and poverty.
Horizontal as well as vertical growth have problems of sustainability

The government machinery and the Madras Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) have been exploring various ways of overcoming them through collaborative partnerships.

A two-day city-level workshop – the UK-India joint network on sustainable cities and urbanization in India, was organised by the MCCI where the stakeholders felt that in-depth research alone can lead to solutions by forging private and public partnerships.  

In his address on ‘Visioning Chennai as a Global City,” Dharmendra Pratap Yadav, Housing and Urban Development Secretary and Vice-Chairman, CMDA, said “we are in a confused state. We do not know what is right and what is wrong. Everyone’s problem seems a real problem and what they perceive as solution, we don’t know. Observatories, such as these, help as governments seem to be working in isolation.”

Calling for an end to the tussle between the civil society and the government, he said it is time to focus on partnering initiatives instead of remaining antagonistic. Tamil Nadu, with its history of urban planning, has been a pioneer in this front.

Given the formation of the CMDA through the 1971 Act, the  town and country planning division came into existence, laying the foundation for urban planning. As many as 128 local town planning authorities exist and most of them have been covered in the two master plans that have been brought out so far. Remaining areas would feature in the proposed master plan.

But, when it comes to urban planning, opinions vary and majority of the solutions are impressionistic rather than backed by scientific data, he lamented, pointing to the Red Hill catchment area getting to be part of the second master plan. Over 15 villages were covered in this plan but owing to the presence of water bodies, the catchment area has been declared as a ‘no development zone’.

Though this may seem good, its impact on ecology, growth of industries and other development aspects have not been considered, Yadav said, even as he sought to stress on the definitive need to preserve water-bodies. South Chennai too has water catchment areas along the coast but there again certain regulations had to be researched more. To have larger plots, smaller or not have to be evaluated given the densification issues, were all the aspects that needed assessment, he noted.

Horizontal as well as vertical growth have problems of sustainability and with equity issues taking a major beating, it is the disadvantaged section of people who bore the brunt, Yadav said, dwelling on the issues of set-back space, living space and societal framework.

Tamil Nadu planning body is in a 'confused state' – TOI – 10th November, 2016

CHENNAI: A cluttered stream of opinion from various quarters on how to tackle complications in urban development is leaving the Tamil Nadu planning agency in a confused state of mind, said housing and urban development secretary Dharmendra Pratap Yadav on Wednesday.

Speaking at a workshop organised by the Madras Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Yadav said solutions suggested within the government body were "impressionistic and eclectic" and devoid of scientific research.

Referring to Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority's master plan, he said it is doubtful if factors such as industrial growth was considered before the planning agency declared areas around water bodies as no development zone. "Preserving a water body is fine. But does that warrant a blanket rule of no development?" he said.

Yadav lamented that the administrative system he works within ensures that knowledge development is scarce among officials, even at his level.

"It is firefighting what we are doing. I have no time. On any day, I need to file counter affidavits, reply to RTIs, hold meetings and spend time looking at files that are 20 years old," he said. All this has led to a situation where the city's poor are excluded in the urban planning process, he added.

The workshop also saw participation from Vijay Pingale, joint secretary, industries department and revenue secretary, B Chandramohan. Pingale spoke at length about the drawbacks of a fragmented city government system.

"It is difficult to evolve city government concept as the state is entrenched in the city's administration. But it is not difficult to integrate. We need to attempt integration of databases of the various departments," he said.

Pingale, who once served as the joint commissioner (works) of the Greater Chennai Corporation, also echoed Yadav's thoughts and said the administration was more "reactionary" and not proactive.

Chandramohan presented his experience as chief of MetroWater during December 2015 floods and hailed the spirit of resilient Chennai.

Other notable speakers were Michele Clarke, associate pro vice-chancellor of the University of Nottingham, who observed that the Chennai floods could have been handled better had there been open access to data on weather, tidal waves and traffic integration.

In this regard, she suggested that Chennai could learn from the cities of Newcastle and Bristol. "Newcastle and Bristol, both coastal cities like Chennai, have developed an urban observatory which helps the public understand the city better through citizen participation," she said.

The urban observatory brings together engineers who use super computers to create a multi-disciplinary research team. The observatory which has been developing rapidly over the last two months can provide dynamic real-time data with respect to dust content, humidity, number of cars on the road and data from sensors set up across the city.

Bristol administrators have built a strong underground network of superfast 5G broadband connectivity to create an integrated digital centre, she said.
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