Chennai and other cities in Tamil Nadu could become denser concrete jungles in a few years from now.
The state government has relaxed norms on minimum open space reservation (OSR) land to be handed over to local authorities to obtain approvals for layouts and building plans.
OSR land is reserved for developing parks, playgrounds, recreational facilities for public use. These green spaces substitute grey infrastructure and provide much-required breathing space in urban area.
As per the old norms (government order 222), if the area of plot was more than 2,500sqm, 10% of land should be handed over to local bodies through a gift deed. But according to the new TN Combined Building Rules 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 10% OSR to local bodies or pay the guideline value of equivalent land to the registration department.
But the rules, which came into effect through a government order issued by the state Municipal Administration and Water Supply (MAWS) department in February, make 10% OSR mandatory for plots more than 10,000sqm. This 10% excludes roads laid within the plot. Roads usually take up 30% of the land area.
Experts have called this illegal. Any rules should be based on provisions in an act and new rules can be framed only by amending the acts. “Provisions pertaining to OSR land, added in the new building rules, were never a part of the local municipal corporation acts. Neither the acts were amended in the state assembly,” said S P Thyigarajan, an RTI activist from Coimbatore.
In response, a senior official from MAWS department said the changes were incorporated in the new rules based on public demand after consulting the same with state government officials from housing and revenue departments.
“People in areas like Anna Nagar wanted lesser OSR spaces as more houses within or near their premises meant better safety for them. There has been an increase in number of theft and other crimes in such places of late,” the MAWS official said.
Thyigarajan said even when 10% OSR was mandatory for plots less than 2,500sqm, there were many violations and not all builders handed over the land to local bodies.
Diluting rules further will make urban environment worse.