Chennai: civic issues

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Quality of life

Lacklustre performance

Aloysius Xavier Lopez, In quality of life study, Chennai may fare poorly, June 8, 2017: The Hindu

Civic agencies are preparing to present city’s case to Central team measuring liveability index

Ahead of the Centre’s proposal to measure the quality of life offered by cities, civic agencies are concerned that in at least 30% of the 79 parameters describing a city’s liveability index, Chennai may get a poor rating.

A key low-scoring item may well be the city’s dysfunctional grievance redressal system. Chennai offers a range of citizen services online. For instance, residents can apply community certificates through common service centres but even after 2-3 months, they are in the dark about how far their applications have progressed. Residents often complain that officials don’t respond quickly enough.

Another concern is that the city’s capital expenditure, though high, remains low as a percentage of total expenditure. Funding from multilateral agencies has been delayed and key projects such as the stormwater drain projects in the Kosasthalaiyar basin and Kovalam basin remain on drawing boards.

In heritage conservation, too, the city is a laggard. Three years after the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority listed heritage buildings for conservation, their restoration and reuse has not taken off. “As an example of the state of affairs, Bharath Insurance building was allowed to deteriorate even after the PWD certified in 1999 that it is fit for renovation,” said S. Santhanam, former member and Chief Urban Planner of CMDA.

Further, Chennai Corporation and the Metrowater have played a role in polluting ecologically sensitive areas such as Pallikaranai, Kodungaiyur and waterways such as the Cooum and Adyar. Proposals for ecorestoration of such important areas have not been implemented properly. The prevalence of water-borne and vector-borne diseases has also been relatively high in certain pockets of the metropolitan area. Residents have demanded improved surveillance of streets, public places and junctions. A shame for the city is the high number of homeless people. Despite the government offering housing for slumdwellers, more than 11,000 homeless people continue to live on the streets.

Silver lining

But it’s not all gloom and doom. Corporation officials said the rating for the liveability index is likely to get a boost owing to a rise in the issuance of construction permits, which is one of the core indicators. More than 30,000 construction permits are issued by civic agencies in the metropolitan area every year.

The civic agencies have been trying to improve the availability of public and recreational places, as well as green spaces. “We have increased the number of parks to 502. We are planning to develop more playgrounds in added areas,” said an official of Chennai Corporation. But more needs to be done, say experts.

Areas that the civic agencies will need to take up are increasing the share of public transport, increasing the use of non-motorised transport, upping the percentage of roads with dedicated bicycle tracks, and laying roads with footpaths wider than 1.2m.

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