A decade back, in 2011, the total population of Tamil Nadu stood at approximately 70 million, with Chennai making up for around 4 million. However, the rapid urbanisation and industrial growth of the city witnessed rapid migration from all over Tamil Nadu and several parts of the country as well, attracted by the good infrastructure, high standard of living, good job opportunities and peaceful law and order.
Migrants, who once found the weather and water situations unbearable, have been willing to make their peace with those minor discomforts in view of quality education for their children and growing job opportunities. As a result, the city is now filled with more than 50% of migrants – mainly from other parts of the State and a significant population of daily wages from North and East India.
As per reports from the UN, Chennai’s population in 2021 is approximately around 11 million, placing it as the 5th largest urban mass city in India, and 30th in the world.
And now, as life returns to normalcy after the lockdown, it’s not all good news as the morning and evening traffic in the city tells the population story clearly. Traffic snarls are common during peak hours across all the main arterial roads that a chock-o-block with office commuters and students.
“Just like the main roads, narrow lanes, too, have been affected by traffic, this is particularly evident since the Metro-rail works, where the people are diverted from main roads to small streets to reach their destinations. In small streets that are dotted with shops and apartments, the moving of existing vehicles to make way for the vehicles in motion is a regular sight. Scurrying through such roads is an exhausting routine,” said an office goer in Chennai.
All’s not well on the housing from either. The rapid pull of people to the city has resulted in an increase in demand for housing with people becoming homeless due to an increase in real estate rates. As building of individual houses is not feasible with the current space available, building of high-rise apartments, flats have increased to keep up with rapid space demand in the city.
The cost of living too has hit the lower-middle-class population and slum-dwellers hard. “ For the past few years, the prices of essential things like vegetables, drinking water have become luxury in Chennai. Compared to other main cities of Tamil Nadu, cost of the vegetables like tomatoes, beans, carrots crosses 100 Rs/Kg mark in recent days. Instead of Tomato chutney, middle-class people like us switched to onion chutney though the price of onions is higher as well,” according to a homemaker.
Presently the city consists of more than 25% slum population, hence the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board is undertaking steps to help people in the slums by building tenements in the city.
Growth is usually seen as a sign of progress, but in case of Chennai city, the growth could well be one of its biggest challenges. According to Daniel Hoornweg and Kevin Pope of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT), the population of Chennai will rise to a staggering 16 million by the year 2050. In all this, there is potential for urbanisation, and with proper planning and resource allocation, Tamil Nadu could either showcase its capital city or grabble with problems of overcrowding in the future as well.