CHENNAI: The concrete jungles in Chennai’s suburbs and other cities in Tamil Nadu have only got denser with the relaxation of building rules.
According to the old norms, if plot size (within Directorate of Town and Country Planning limits) exceeded 2,500 square metres, 10% of land should be handed over to local bodies through a gift deed. This Open Space Reservation (OSR) land should be used for developing parks, playgrounds, and recreational facilities for public use.
However, according to the new Tamil Nadu Combined Building Rules (TNCBDR) 2019, OSR is not mandatory for plots less than 3,000sqm. In case the plot is between 3,000sqm and 10,000sqm, the builder can either gift the 10% OSR to local bodies or pay the guideline value of equivalent land to the registration department.
In the last three years, more than 1,800 registrations were made under this category, and 82% of them had preferred to pay the guideline amount instead of gifting the OSR, according to data sourced by SP Thyigarajan, a civic rights’ activist, through Right To Information (RTI) petitions from 26 out of the 37 DTCP offices in TN.
“The changes made were never a part of the local municipal corporation Acts, and if the government doesn’t revoke it now, we might end up living in denser concrete jungles with zero green space and no ventilation,” said Thyigarajan. Builders, however, say that at face value 10% might look like a substantial extent of land, but it is a small area when it comes to individual plots.
S Sridharan, Chairman, Policy Advocacy Urban Development and Houses, CREDAI National, said that every time a building is developed in cities like Coimbatore and Madurai, it becomes difficult to provide space for facilities such as car parking, setback areas, transformers, and sewage treatment plants.
“Also, this practice was followed by the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) for years, and now it has been extended to the entire state,” he said. Besides, builders say that the government too is earning revenue through this. Corroborating this, the RTI data suggests that the state earned ₹67 crore (for 2,038 acres of OSR land) through this change since 2019 and almost ₹31 crore (46%) was collected from property developers and builders in Coimbatore district. “If the government is looking at it as a revenue option, then it should at least consider the market rate instead of sticking to ‘dirt-cheap’ guideline value,” said B Chandrakanth, a civil engineer, who stressed the need for the provision of OSR land for a peaceful life in urban spaces.