Chennai Development body to allow housing in ‘catchment areas’

Ducking the blanket ban imposed by the Madras high court on conversion of water bodies and wet lands into residential layouts, the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) is considering a proposal to reclassify catchment area near Avadi. While environmentalists have raised a red flag over the move as it would adversely impact the rainfall activity zone, the planning authority has said the site was “wrongly” declared a waterbody.

According to the reclassification notification published on the CMDA portal, an application has been filed with the planning authority seeking to change the land use pattern of a site falling in 16 survey numbers of Vellanur village in Avadi taluk of Tiruvallur district.

Though the quantum of land has been mentioned as 11.67.50, the unit for measurement is mysteriously missing, which has been categorised as ‘catchment area’ in the second masterplan of the CMDA. CMDA has sought objections, suggestions and representation from the public over the proposal seeking to reclassify it as residential layout.

Since Red Hills and Puzhal are major water sources for the city, the CMDA had declared contiguous areas of the reservoirs as ‘Red Hills catchment area’ to protect them from urbanisation. Vellanur comes under this radar of restricted development.

Founder of Environmentalist Foundation of India Arun Krishnamurthy, said catchment areas are rainfall activity zones that need to be protected. “If we are going to destroy such zones, it will lead to a waterless future,” he said. Similarly, another 3.23 hectares of land at Mannivakkam near Tambaram, that has been declared as partly-agricultural and partly-water body zone has also been sought for reclassification into residential layout.

When contacted, a senior CMDA official told TOI that these were not government land. “Moreover, a water body cannot be reclassified to any zone. Only land wrongly classified as water body can be considered (for reclassification),” the official said, adding that the revenue department should also certify that it was not a water body.