CHENNAI: With most of the Slum Clearance Board tenements across the state in a dilapidated condition, posing grave risk to the occupants, the Tamil Nadu government has announced construction of new apartments at Rs 280 crore. As many as 3,500 tenements will be replaced by new blocks across the state shortly.
An official press release said chief minster J Jayalalithaa had given administrative sanction to the high-cost scheme. The tenements were built several decades ago to help the poor people living in slums get concrete housing. Initially, the government planned to build tenements in Dr Radhakrishnan Nagar, Perambur, Egmore, Chepauk, Ayodya Kuppam, Kotturpuram and Mylapore in Chennai. In the rest of the state, the board has decided to build tenements in Coimbatore, Trichy and Nagapattinam.
Incidentally, the board has been facing stiff opposition from the residents of several tenements, including Ayodya Kuppam off Marina, where the board has planned to take up reconstruction. Sources said efforts to vacate the residents remained a challenge as they preferred nearby vacant grounds as temporary shelters. “They are not happy with the monthly rent as proposed by the board during the period of construction,” said a source.
CHENNAI: Land owners facing acquisition threats from major infrastructure projects would be a relieved lot with the LokSabha clearing the Land Acquisition Bill that promises property owners a higher compensation — four times of what the market offers. The bill will now go before the RajyaSabha.
Acquisition of land for major infrastructure projects like GAIL pipeline, highway expansion and coal bed methane exploration has been a major hurdle in TN. A satellite township at Thirumazhisai is stuck owing to opposition from farmers.
During the previous DMK regime, Tata’s proposed 2,500 crore titanium dioxide project was shelved owing to stiff opposition to the plan to acquire 10,000 acres in Tirunelveli and Tuticorin. The government also dropped its plan for a satellite township at Thaiyur, off Old Mahabalipuram Road, under pressure from PMK. The new bill is expected to make land acquisition smoother, speeding up infrastructure projects.
Farmers are often justified in opposing acquisition of their land, because compensation used to be meager, and seldom paid on time. “Several people, who lost about 1,200 acres to the Neyveli Lignite Corporation in 2006, have not yet received compensation , and many of them are working as construction workers and house maids,” said former Cuddalore panchayat chairperson R Silambuselvi.
At times, governments announce mega projects without studying environmental impact , said Tamil Nadu Cauvery Delta Farmers’ Association general secretary S Ranganathan . He said, “The coal bed methane project in Thanjavur and Tiruvarur will ruin agricultural land that caters to 45% of the state’s food requirement.” R Ganesan of Chettipalayam near Coimbatore, opposing GAIL’s pipeline project, said, “The alignment cuts through my coconut farm. I will lose one acre. The compensation, which is one-tenth of the guideline value , is a pittance.”
S Velumani, who made headlines by staging a sit-in protest in his well recently, opposing acquisition of his 3.5-acre coconut farm for the Coimbatore-Mettupalayam road expansion , said, “I have only three wells. All the three wells would go for the road project.”
Most often, the victims are small farmers. Successive agricultural censuses have shown a growing imbalance in the distribution of land in TN. Around 59 lakh marginal farmers (those who hold less than one hectare or 2.47 acres) own 22 lakh hectares, 12 lakh small farmers (one hectare to two hectares ) own 17 lakh hectares, six lakh semi-medium farmers (two hectares to 4 hectares) own 16 lakh hectares, 1.9 lakh medium farmers (4 to 10 hectares) own 11 lakh hectares and 26,000 large farmers (more than 10 hectares) own six lakh hectares. Interestingly, the number of marginal farmers, 39.5 lakh in 1977, has shot up to 59 lakh. On the other hand, the number of medium and large farmers has declined – from 3 lakh to 1.9 lakh and 46,000 to 26,000 respectively.
Few projects have had a smooth sailing at the land acquisition stage. A case in point is GVK’s multi-product SEZ at Perambalur, for which the firm acquired 3,184 acres in 2007 and 2008 by paying more than the market price. Analysts feel that economic viability alone should not be the criterion. “Social viability is more important. The money given to farmers does not go outside the country. Hence, there is nothing wrong in paying them more than the market price,” noted Madras Institute of Development Studies director R Maria Saleth.
Looking at the long list of infrastructural projects that are stuck owing to land acquisition problems, government’s proposal to pay four times the market price for the land will smoothen acquisitions in future. Though it will increase the cost of the project initially, it will help prevent cost escalation on account of delays. However, promises will not do. Compensation should be paid to farmers even before land is taken over by the government.
CHENNAI: A real estate firm that delayed giving possession of an apartment to its buyer has been directed by the State Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission to pay 3 lakh as compensation.
In December 2012, Vijaya Padmanaban , an employee of Chaitanya Builders and Leasing Pvt Ltd, made an advance payment and booked an apartment in the project being built by her employer . She received the confirmation in the same month, after which she carried out interior furnishing work in the flat. Two years later, she resigned her job with Chaitanya Builders. The company sent her a note saying the flat was allotted to her “at less than (the actual) cost on an understanding of a long-term productive participation in the growth of the company.”
The company also returned her cheques saying that her “attitude to the company’s assignments resulted in a loss of 2 crore in a project.” Vijaya filed a complaint with the commission seeking a compensation of 20 lakh for deficiency in service, harassment, mental agony, and 15,000 for loss of funds .
Chaitanya , in its reply , said the complaint was time-barred and fell outside the purview of the commission . It said Vijaya’s negligence resulted in huge losses to the company and claimed she was trying to unlawfully take possession of the flat . Further, Chaitanya filed a civil suit and obtained an injunction order too.
The commission’s bench said: “It is well settled that all subjects relating to housing construction are within the purview of the Consumer Protection Act. As there is continuing cause of action in not handing over possession of the flat in complete shape , it cannot be barred by time .”
The bench said further evidence regarding the civil suit was not produced and the employment issue was irrelevant to the case.
The commission said: “The failure on the part of the company to hand over possession ofthe flat to Vijaya in time amounts to deficiency in service.” It directed Chaitanya to “hand over possession of the flat to Vijaya and pay an amount of 3 lakh for deficiency in service, harassment, loss and sufferings undergone by her, besides 5,000 as costs.” Vijaya has also agreed to pay the revised price quoted by the builder. She has been directed to submit the balance amount over and above the initial payments.
The north Chennai skyline is beginning to change with a number of large-scale properties setting up base there.
As a result, areas such as Kolathur and Madhavaram are witnessing a boom in the housing sector.
With opportunities to develop property and construct multi-storey buildings getting fast exhausted in south and central Chennai, major industry players are now eyeing north and northwest parts of the city.
Congested areas such as Tondiarpet and Korrukupet are home to high-rise apartments that dot the skyline.
Until three years ago, large-scale construction in north Chennai accounted for 20 per cent of building activity in the city.
Now, it has increased to 40-45 per cent, said P. Manishankar, president of Federation of Flats and Housing Promoters Association.
The price of land is cheaper by 20 per cent in the north prompting several builders to develop properties in far flung areas such as Red Hills. Residents do not mind the distance for the sake of affordable housing, said Mr. Manishankar.
R. Kumar, managing director of Navin Housing and Properties, said the trend of luxury apartments was catching up in areas such as Sembium and Tondiarpet. Better connectivity and improved infrastructure are attracting more people to the northern suburbs.
“In north Chennai, people can buy flats at two-third of the rates prevailing in south Chennai,” he said.
At least 15 large-scale projects are being developed across one lakh square feet in areas such as Tiruvottiyur and Perambur.
The price of an apartment ranges from Rs. 3,500 per sq. ft. to Rs. 6,500 per sq. ft. depending on the location. A majority of the customers are first-time buyers. However, there is no re-development of properties, said S. Senthil Kumar, former president of North Chennai Flat Promoters Association.
M.R. Nazeerudeen, immediate past president of Chennai Real Estate Agents Association, said: “One of the most popular areas for builders now is Kolathur. Though the number of high-rise apartments is much lesser, budget homes are available.”
Proximity of Kolathur and Madhavaram to Inner Ring Road, easy access to areas like Anna Nagar and infrastructure development such as new bus termini and grade separators have acted in favour of these areas.
For buyers like K.S. Gopal, a resident of Perambur, it is a dream come true to own an apartment in a gated community.
“I wanted to spend my retired life in the comfort of amenities such as walking tracks, clubs and swimming pool. So, I booked a 1,600 sq. ft. flat in Kolathur, four years ago, for Rs. 3,000 per sq. ft.,” he said.
D. Viswanathan, a builder, who has two ongoing projects, entered Madhavaram five years ago because the area had quality groundwater and was close to areas such as Parry’s Corner and Perambur.
“More builders are coming to north Chennai as several of these areas have been merged with the Chennai Corporation. The demand for houses has been increasing, and now the number of houses actually exceeds the demand,” he said.
CHENNAI: The state highways department on Thursday morning started razing properties in Selaiyur, near Tambaram, as part of preliminary work on the Eastern Bypass Road.
The department began the process of demolishing houses, shops and other establishments for Phase 1 of the project, which will involve widening a 4km stretch of Camp Road.
The Eastern Bypass Road was conceived to ease traffic congestion on Velachery Main Road and Grand Southern Trunk Road. It will connect Rajakilpakkam on Velachery Main Road and Perungalathur on GST Road.
Once the 9km long road is ready for use, motorists heading from the IT Corridor towards Chengalpet and Trichy will not have to pass through crowded Tambaram.
Highways officials on Tuesday said they were demolishing structures on land acquired by the department from Camp Road Junction in Selaiyur to Tiruvanchery. A highways official said several of the properties being demolished were being illegally held as the occupants had all been paid compensation.
Earlier, residents of the Sadhanandapuram-Aalapakkam stretch near Tambaram had asked the highways department to modify its plan for the proposed road. They refused to part with their land unless the alignment was changed. People in the area were against traffic being diverted to Tambaram, which they said was too congested, and proposed that the road should lead to Vandalur instead.
Highways officials, however,said any modification would be impossible. They said the project is part of CMDA’s second master plan and its plan was drawn up based on traffic studies. The bypass road will be 50 metres wide and pass through Madambakkam, Mappedu, Agaram , Tiruvanchery and Nedunkundram.
The state originally allocated 200 crore for the project. Civil work on the stretch will cost around 30 crore.
CHENNAI: In a major setback to the city’s road infrastructure and the port’s revenue dreams, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has decided to shelve the Chennai port- Maduravoyal expressway by closing the Rs1,815 crore contract.
NHAI has been in a spot after the state government stopped work on the 19km elevated road in February last year citing deviation from the original alignment and the contractor going to court. The road was to ease congestion on city roads and speed up movement of containers from distant places to the port. The proposed cancellation threatens to upset two major initiatives of the port – the mega container project and the dry port – together pegged at Rs4,000 crore, besides sending negative signals to companies planning to set up manufacturing units in the state.
The elevated expressway is one of the three projects caught in a quagmire after the change of government in 2011, the others being the GAIL pipeline and the coal-bed methane project in the Cauvery delta. The contractor, Soma Enterprises who spent about Rs500 crore, has been pressuring NHAI, forcing it to call off the project.
“The headquarters has sought the proposal to close the contract due to the increasing claims by Soma Enterprises towards idling charges,” NHAI chief general manager I G Reddy told TOI. “In a day or two, the official letter (seeking closure) will be sent.” The contractor, Soma Enterprises, had asked NHAI to pay Rs872.8 crore towards losses suffered by him, within 30 days. The company said it had completed 30% of the project. The contractor said 120 columns have been raised between Koyambedu and Maduravoyal. Along the Cooum, 15 out of the 889 columns have been erected. The state government had taken a stand against these 15 columns which it said had come up on the river bed, affecting the flow of flood water.
Cancellation of the project would affect exporters and importers and harm the port’s revenue, officials said. At present, container trucks from southern districts move on Chennai Bypass Road via Maduravoyal, Madhavaram and Puzhal and Jawaharlal Nehru Salai (100ft Road) to reach Chennai port. Those from the northern parts take the Manali Oil Refinery Road and Ennore High Road. The sorry state of carriageways in Minjur, Madhavaram and port has been a matter of concern for all stakeholders. Truckers said idling on these roads costs much on time and fuel. Sometimes trucks take a couple of days to move from Manali Oil Refinery Road to Gate 1 of the port, a distance of hardly 5km.
Early this year, the state PWD sought NHAI to change the alignment along the river Cooum to continue the work, but the highways authority found it impractical due to the geometric pattern of the elevated stretch. Asked if it was the end of the project, the NHAI official said, “If the atmosphere turns conducive, we will continue the project at a later stage.”
The state government is yet to file a counter to a public interest litigation that challenged its move to stall the project. Soma Enterprises was mandated to build the elevated road by September 2013 and collect toll from the users for 15 years. The contractor was not available for comment.
The issue was discussed at several levels, the latest being with Union road transport and highways minister Oscar Fernandes at a review meeting. Chennai Port Trust has given Rs 50 crore towards its share for land acquisition and rehabilitation of about 7,400 families.
CHENNAI: For some residents of Manali, the Right To Information (RTI) Act is a weapon to ensure they get civic amenities. One of their biggest successes has been getting the corporation to convert a 2.7-acre dumping yard into a park. It may not be as well-landscaped as parks in central Chennai but the struggle makes it beautiful in residents’ eyes.
Pointing to the rectangular walkway, B Thirugnanam, president of TNHB Colony Residents’ Consumer Protection Awareness Welfare Association, said: “It’s because of our unity that we got this park.” Tamil Nadu Housing Board had given the land to the Mathur village panchayat, which used it to dump garbage. “The panchayat made plans to give the land away. We filed an RTI application in 2006 and found that the land was meant for a park for us,” he said. It took them another five years to get it converted into a park.
RTI also helped residents reclaim a government school building in MMDA Colony from antisocial elements. “TNHB had built the school and handed it over to the education department but they were unaware of it. After our RTI, the department started a school for 450 students three years ago,” he said.
They took the same path to get a primary health centre on 2nd Main Road in MMDA Colony. “TNHB had sold a building meant for a hospital to a private individual. Our RTI application brought it to light and the corporation reclaimed it and turned it into a hospital,” said A Pandiyan, association vicepresident . They’re now fighting to get their community hall opened. “We want basic facilities from the corporation,” said general secretary M Muniasamy.
Chennai: Shaken by repeating incidents of homemakers and senior citizens being killed in their homes, bigger and newer apartment complexes are stepping up security measures, but the smaller and older ones are yet to wake up to the danger.
The latest of the horrors came on Wednesday when a telecom technician who went to set right an internet connection in a JJ Nagar house killed a 65-year-old resident. Some apartment complexes, following police advice, spend more than 40,000 a month to ensure thier residents can have a peaceful sleep.
A person is monitored from when they enter the Jain Akanksha apartment complex in MRC Nagar till they step inside a flat. They are under surveillance again from the minute they step out till they leave the compound. “As per police instructions, we have installed security cameras at the gates, in lifts and corridors,” says Priya Ramkumar, a resident. “The cameras are monitored through the day by a manager. The night footage is kept for review,” she says.
Not leaving everything to technology, some apartment complexes have brought in manual systems to ensure unauthorized or suspicious people don’t enter the compound. “We have given all our maids, cooks, car washers, paperboys and milkmen identity cards with their names, addresses and fingerprints,” says Suresh Ganapathy, president of the Federation of Nolambur Flat Owners’ Associations.
At Jain Akanksha, the buildings have six guards patrolling at night. The entrance, exits, corridors and play area are patrolled through the night,” says Ramkumar.
Almost all new apartment complexes have been fitted with intercom that connects the security desk with every house. Guards use it to crosscheck about unknown visitors. “When visitors or servicemen come home the guard calls us on the intercom if we are expecting them and are given a gate pass, which is collected back when he leaves the compound,” says S Nirmal, a resident of Arihant Towers in Koyambedu.
But some apartments stick to the one watchman concept. With most of these watchmen being elderly people, such houses are dependent on police patrols at night. “Maintaining foolproof security takes some effort,” says Ganapathy. “When some apartment complexes refuse to pay more than 6,000 as monthly salary, they get only old security men.”
Police say they have increased night patrols besides conducting vehicle checks, but advise residential associations to put in place a stronger security in the premises.
CHENNAI: The Madras high court has disallowed construction of a 396-apartment building complex near Poonamallee and reversed a single judge order directing the CMDA to grant planning permission for the housing project.
The first bench comprising acting Chief Justice R K Agrawal and Justice M Sathyanarayanan, agreeing with additional advocate general P H Aravindh Pandian’s submission that the project was to come up in an area which lacked a road with the minimum required width, said: “If planning permission is granted, dwelling units would come up, which would definitely add to the population of the area.”
“The minimum road width as prescribed in the development regulation is required to accommodate facilities like water pipeline, drainage, electrical line, storm water drains, etc. In the absence of minimum requirement, it would inconvenience the residents.”
Apprehending similar demands from other land developers, the first bench further said: “Once such permission is granted, the other developers may also claim parity. The CMDA has taken into consideration all the relevant aspects and rightly denied planning permission.”
The city-based Himabindu infra Private Limited had planned a 396-unit housing project at Agaramel village near Poonamallee. Finding that the maximum road width was less than 9 metres for a distance of about 250 metres, the CMDA rejected the proposal in February 2012. Challenging the rejection, the builder filed a petition.
On October 29, 2012, a single judge, relying on a report filed by an advocate commissioner deputed by the high court as well as the proceedings of the Poonamallee panchayat union commissioner, directed the CMDA to grant planning permission for the project within a time frame. The CMDA then filed an appeal.
In the absence of minimum road width, infrastructure facilities like water pipeline, drainage, electrical line and storm water drains cannot be provided.
CHENNAI: About 9.5km of track have been laid for metro rail’s elevated line on the Koyambedu- St Thomas Mount stretch. The deadline to finish the 12km-line is the end of this year.
Work is on to lay the test track at the depot in Koyambedu, where the trains will be tested before they are moved to the elevated line over 100 feet road.
“Painting of the rail and welding of the rail joints are in progress. Nearly 2.5km of tracks have been painted,” said a senior official of metro rail. Metro rail is aiming for a year-end deadline as the state government has announced that services will begin by the middle of next year.
Around 87% of the spans have been installed between Koyambedu and St Thomas Mount. Of the 323 spans required, metro rail installed 284 spans by end of last month. Work is going to install the rest as and when piers are completed.
Metro rail recently started building a span over Kathipara flyover to connect the elevated line from Sidco to the proposed Alandur station. This section is expected to take time as a unique engineering method called balanced cantilever is being used to build a long span over a busy flyover without stopping traffic.
This time-consuming method allows construction of lengthy spans between pillars because it does not require the use of heavy equipment underneath the construction site.
As stock has started to come in, metro rail has started to speed up work along the stretch so that the coaches can be tested on the line. Station work is also progressing rapidly at Koyambedu, Vadapalani, Ashok Nagar, Alandur and St Thomas Mount.