THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Local protests solely might not have derailed the master plan of city corporation.
A Facebook post by a town planning official in the wake of Chennai floods has reignited debates on real reasons that led to cancellation of master plan in 2014 which also holds real estate mafia for forcing a freeze on it. In the post, town planner Baiju K, who was associated with the preparation of master plan, rues about the manner in which conservation of green strips so vital to flood control was done away with following the cancellation of master plan and how city could repeat a Chennai-like ordeal in case of heavy showers.
The master plan had proposed Green to planned development as a guideline for conserving the water retention areas, water carrying canals and the remaining low lying land. According to the official, the low-lying lands were in the hands of real estate brokers which they advanced for cheaper rate and they didn't want any external body to take control over that.
"What followed was an organized and ill-motivated agitation which finally succeeded in ensuring a freeze on the published master plan by the government. This was the opportunity wanted by the real estate brokers and within no time they subdivided the low-lying lands and sold them," the official writes on Facebook.
Baiju even adds that the permits given by the corporation after freezing the master plan speaks volumes about it. "I am sad to say that planning failed before political and money power," he said.
Baiju added that green to planned development was proposed to conserve natural water retention areas and individual plot sharing was also proposed. For instance, if an area measuring 10 acres is marked as green strip in master plan, 25 cents could be reserved for water retention and monetary loss in such cases could be made up through collaboration among individual land owners. This suggestion was omitted in the modifications recommended for new master plan following cancellation. "This was crucial to controlling floods and areas like Maruthamkuzhy which witnesses frequent flooding was also included in this green strip," Baiju said.
The government cancelled the master plan as the government and corporation had faced a lot of public ire after the draft master plan-2031 demarcated areas in Kattaikonam, Attipra and Kazhakkoottam for future development. The green to planned development is learnt to have been omitted in the modified plan, a lapse which could prove costly for the city in the near future. The city has lost 90% green strips since 1971 and the officials say that regulated development is the only way to prevent reclamation. The legal hurdles also pose trouble for town planning wing. There have been court rulings which say that a land in the middle of city cannot be marked as green strip permanently or else it has to be acquired by the government. "This means acquiring land at huge prices, which is not practical," an official said.
The new ruling council is still undecided over preparation of new master plan although permits are still being issued based on 1971 master plan which covers only 75 sq km while the city presently measures 215 sq km.