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Futuristic townships

The 6 satellite towns proposed by the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) around the metropolis have the potential to become benchmarks for strategic and sustainable urban development.

Futuristic townships

The first master plan prepared by CMDA had proposed satellite towns such as Maraimalai Nagar, Manali New Town and Tiruvallur. (Illustrations:Sai)

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CHENNAI: ‘Catch them young’ is a popular adage that is frequently used within the context of the school education system and students. The same can be applied to the urban development sector where the proposed townships can be prevented from becoming haphazard cities, if planned well-ahead keeping several parameters in mind.

After the sudden boom of unplanned urbanisation around the Metropolis without concern for water supply, sewage and waste management, environment, transportation and economic independence, the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) has announced development of six satellite towns (new towns) around Chennai in Tiruvallur, Kancheepuram, Tirumazhisai, Chengalpattu, Minjur and Mahabalipuram.

Plans for new towns

Among the new towns, Kancheepuram is planned as a heritage city and Mahabalipuram would become a tourism city. Tirumazhisai, which is close to the automobile hub Sriperumbudur, will be developed as a city of economic activities.

Meanwhile, the planning authority has invited consultants to prepare a detailed development plan for the satellite towns, except for Mahabalipuram. A government order notifying the areas to be brought under the Mahabalipuram New Town was issued only a few days ago.

The development plans will propose roads, rail, bridges and flyovers apart from water supply and sewerage network, storm water drains and others. Moreover, the plan will establish land-use and land cover, and also propose steps to preserve wetlands, flood-prone areas, and waterbodies in the satellite towns. Recreational space, and space for institutions and industries will also be covered.

These development plans will have a horizon period of 2045.

As for revenue villages, Chengalpattu new town will cover 60 and Kancheepuram new town will cover 17. New towns in Tiruvallur and Tirumazhisai will cover 11 and 17 revenue villages respectively. As many as 12 revenue villages will be part of Minjur new town . Mahabalipuram will cover 25 revenue villages.

The first master plan prepared by the CMDA had proposed satellite towns such as Maraimalai Nagar, Manali new town and Tiruvallur.

Development rules

As per the New Town Development Rules issued by the State Housing and Urban Development Department, the proposed township should address mobility and environmental aspects.

The New Town Development Plan should include provisions for compatible ‘transit oriented development’ along with major corridors and integrating features such as pedestrianisation and cycling to reduce carbon footprint. The plan should include preparation of a grid of road-plans to improve accessibility.

The rules also include the provision for climate resilience measures such as comprehensive macro and micro drainage plan, flood inundation and climate hazard mapping, disaster and risk management plan, a plan for protection of eco sensitive areas, development of blue-green infrastructure, encouraging energy efficient development, prevention of pollution, reclamation of polluted lands (salt pans, hazardous landfills and other brown fields).

Plans for tourism and water-front development, water resource augmentation, solid waste management and heritage conservation are also made mandatory apart from applying for integrated land use and infrastructure planning principles that coordinate the plans across key sectors, including but not limited to, economic development, public health, safety, energy and education.

The development rules also mandate the CMDA to prepare a land-and-building-use map for the new town area within a year of the declaration of the site. The maps should be prepared in the Geographical Information System (GIS) platform or any other digital platform complete with geo-referencing.

‘Learn from the past’

With 142 revenue villages to come under 6 new towns, experts have cautioned the planning authority to learn their lessons from the past citing the hardships created on the residents of the IT Corridor.

KP Subramanian, town planning expert and former professor of Anna University, opined that new towns were proposed to decongest Chennai, which is bursting at the seams. “The CMDA plans to develop them as independent and self-contained entities with infrastructure, economic, social and spatial components. But it must learn from the haphazard development of the IT Corridor and other places,” he said. “New towns must be developed as balanced places with a walk-to-work concept.”

Places of work, residences, education, health, shopping, recreation and religious institutions must be walkable or cycleable, along the lines of 15-minute-city built abroad. “Commuting to the city must be totally discouraged. There should be no gentrification where existing communities are driven away in the name of upscaling the neighbourhood. Instead, they must be empowered,” pointed out Subramanian. “New towns must provide affordable housing to the poor and the underprivileged. Only then, the objectives of development will be realised.”

Meanwhile, KM Sadhanandh, president, Association of Professional Town Planners, urged the CMDA to define the purpose of creating new towns. “Studies should be conducted if there is sufficient land available; or whether more land should be acquired, apart from studying population projections and infrastructural requirements,” he added.

While welcoming the idea, Sadhanandh pointed to the challenges in implementing the projects. “Sriperumbudur has had intensive industrial growth and is on the world map now. But there is no planned town development there. Of the three proposed towns in the First Master Plan, Tiruvallur has become a district. Maraimalai Nagar is developing as expected but not Manali new town. These towns are not successful,” he averred.


1) A smaller city near a large metropolitan city which has its own local government and economy, independent of the neighbouring city

2) Lot of influences from the large city nearby, but satellite towns have their own culture, history, and independent economic infrastructure

3) Interconnected with the larger towns but completely independent of the large city nearby

4) Not an extension of the neighbouring city. has a clear distinction between a large parent city and a satellite city

5) Not as developed as the larger towns nearby. Population is much smaller


• Regulate the growth of population in the parent city by creating an attractive urban centre to absorb immigrants

• Provide affordable housing to low income groups and economically weaker sections working in the parent city

• Develop new areas of economic growth

• Achieve a quality of life better than the one in the parent city

• Utilise the region’s potential and overcome polarisation/primacy in the region


Transit-oriented development

Lack of transit-oriented development resulted in poor last mile connectivity. Proposal to increase FSI along corridors yet to be notified. To ensure last mile connectivity by promoting residential areas close to transport corridors.

Space for non-motorised transportation

As Chennai roads are developed keeping cars in mind, pedestrians and cyclists have no space. Roads in satellite towns should have earmarked road space of walkers and cyclists.

Haphazard parking

Priority given to private vehicles eats up road-space and lack of sufficient parking space increases commuting time. Usage of private vehicles should be cut down by ensuring elaborate public transportation and parking spaces should be properly demarcated.

Loss of natural ecosystems

Several lakes and water bodies are poorly maintained or encroached to build buildings. In most cases damages have become irreversible. Measures should be taken to preserve ecosystems and they should be announced as no-development zones

Lack of open space

Open spaces such as playgrounds, parks and other recreational spots are negligible in Chennai. Land-use plan should be prepared in a way to ensure high standard of living conditions with sufficient open spaces.

Understand climate change

Since Chennai is also facing adverse impact of climate change such as water scarcity and extreme heat and flooding, environmentalists urge the State government to have climate change perception while planning new towns.

Prabhakaran Veeraarasu, environmental engineer, Poovulagin Nanbargal (NGO), said that concentrating development in one place will cause environmental degradation and lead to a lack of adequate basic facilities.

“It’s good to decentralise growth. Nearly one-sixth of the State population lives in Chennai. This causes water scarcity, pollution, sewerage issues and poor lifestyle. However, planners and engineers must understand climate change and environmental issues before creating satellite towns,” he opined.

Veeraarasu added that the mistakes made in Chennai, like encroachment of waterbodies, which led to floods, should not be repeated in the satellite towns. Centralised sewage treatment plants in Chennai is a complete waste of energy and money, as sewage is being pumped from one locality to another.

“Due to unplanned development, two of three rivers in the city are dead. The Chennai Climate Action Plan says that the extent of waterbodies has decreased to 18 sq km from 40 sq km. Waterbodies in the proposed towns should not be disturbed. Also, large chunks of agricultural lands should never be utilised for the sake of urban development,” he said.

In the case of Mahabalipuram, the proposed satellite town is close to the sea. While planning the town, rise of sea level due to climate change and sea water intrusion should be studied.

“Moreover, plans must include the source of electricity to the township and its distribution. Clarity is needed whether power from thermal plants will be used or renewable energy utilised. Proper zoning of land use should be followed,” Prabhakaran pointed out.

Development plans proposed:

  • Roads, rail, bridges and flyovers.
  • Water supply, sewerage network, storm water drains, etc.
  • Establish land use and land cover.
  • Steps to preserve wetlands, flood-prone areas, and waterbodies.
  • Recreational space.
  • Space for institutions and industries.
Rudhran Baraasu
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