New plans for Singara Chennai raise hope among citizens

The new government has unveiled plans for Singara Chennai 2.0 to make the city more liveable and attractive. A citizen journalist outlines his expectations.

Sweeping changes at the helm of affairs in government brings with it sweeping changes in ground realities as well. In the mid-nineties, even though the IT revolution was already well underway, Chennai, the capital city of Tamil Nadu, then called Madras, did not sport a presentable or attractive enough look for a capital city. In fact, it was way behind other state capitals and metro cities in terms of the first impression it made. Soon after their victory in the May 1996 elections, then CM M Karunanidhi renamed the city as Chennai and initiated a host of projects under the umbrella of “Singara Chennai”.

The word Singaram in Tamil means beautiful/ornamental/embellished. The objective was to beautify the city, free the roads from the rampant heaps of garbage and foul smell, and enable smooth flow of traffic. That was the first step in the city’s transformation, wherein concerted efforts were undertaken to spruce up the look of Chennai, make the city livable and travel-friendly.

Mega projects in the early days

From the early days of the city till the 1990s, development work on roads, street lighting, pavements for walkers etc was concentrated around Mount Road and other arterial roads. As a result, the interiors of Chennai and suburban areas remained underdeveloped. 

There was no structured and scientific method of collection and disposal of garbage generated in residential houses, manufacturing units and service providers. Household garbage was thrown on the roads at will by residents and the tardiness in collection and disposal resulted in heaps piling up in every street. Chennai was notorious for mosquito menace then, the root cause being the accumulated biodegradable waste on roads. It was no wonder then that Chennai was rated as the second dirtiest city in India. 

The Corporation on its part was plagued by limited resources, paucity of funds and a helpless bureaucracy.

Read more: Pending infra projects worth nearly Rs 3000 crore adding to Chennai’s commute woes

A Singapore based company was assigned the task of clearing the street garbage. This marked the first step in the making of “Singara Chennai”.  Every bin kept on the roads bore the lettering “Singara Chennai,” serving as a nudge to the people to play their part in keeping the city clean. This campaign met with some success. Chennai’s rating in cleanliness showed marked signs of improvement as a result of cooperation by the public. 

Among other vital work taken up under the Singara Chennai project was the transformation or beautification of parks. The parks that were in dilapidated condition received a facelift. Regulation of timings and better cleanliness norms ensured more people visited the parks.  Separate play areas were introduced for children, better walkways for morning and evening walkers. Greenery increased thanks to the plantation of eye catching flora and public toilet facilities also improved. 

Several flyovers were commissioned under Singara Chennai project to reduce congestion
Several flyovers were commissioned to reduce congestion in the city. Pic: Pratik Gupte/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY:SA 2.0)

Around the same time, construction of several flyovers/grade separators in various places enabled seamless flow of traffic and relief from congestion. 

Singara Chennai 1.0 brought an impetus for the development of Chennai and marked an ambitious bid to transform the state capital into a modern, efficient and liveable city. 

Read more: Desalination plants, ECR expansion, airport upgrade, GCC split: What are the different parties promising Chennai?

Singara Chennai 2.0 

The new DMK government elected to power in May 2021 has announced a proposal to revive the Singara Chennai project. In the interregnum between the last term of this government and the present term, several projects were taken up, chief among which was the Indian government’s Smart Cities Project. Development works are already afoot in several areas. The pedestrian plaza in Pondy Bazaar is a glittering example. The operation of Chennai Metro both above and below ground has also eased the strain on travel within the city. 

Proposals under Singara Chennai 2.0

  1. Project Blue- A project set to transform the city’s coastline. The city will get beachfronts with a facelift, water sports facilities and an aquarium. The aim is to showcase the city’s vast coastline and improve tourism
  2. Beautification of subways and flyovers across the city with urban gardens, play areas
  3. Redevelopment of Anna Nagar Tower Park with a proposal for a Ferris wheel
  4. Area improvement projects to be undertaken for Guindy & Egmore stations
  5. Science & Mathematics Parks for children to encourage scientific enquiry and temper
  6. Heritage landmarks of the such as the Victoria Hall to be renovated on priority
  7. Creation of an Art District in the city to encourage street art and other forms that showcase local life and culture
  8. Creation of a pet park, science center and a state-of-the-art multi-sports complex 
  9. Promotion of electric vehicle use

It is said that a developed city is not one where the poor can afford a car but one where the rich travel by public transport. Chennai is aiming to catch up to align itself with the latter. 

Close on the heels of a pandemic that crippled movement and made citizens desperate for revival of active lives, the promise of the above development projects is rejuvenating. Chennaiites have reason to look forward to the urban transformation that is set to take place in their city with a keen eye.

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  1. Janani says:

    No project -Green ?Dont we need to address the
    issue of landfills and the need for a stricter waste
    Management rules from the grass-root level I.e
    3 way source segregation of waste at household
    Level !
    That will give more meaning to the word

    • R says:

      May be, since its already covered in 1.0, they would work under that head while all the other modification will take place under 2.0? That… Cleanliness forming part of corrective measures while all the new ideas under a new project!

  2. Nagaratnam Venkatachalam says:

    Corporation of Chennai Should start collecting garbage from residents in segregated form. That is wet and dry. The residents can keep two bins at home one for wet & other for dry waste. The garbage collectors should have 2compartments in their bin cycle one for wet kitchen waste and other for dry waste. This can help segregation of waste and make the work of Corporation easier. The sanitary staff should empty their carts in in Vans with separate sections for for wet and dry waste. Once this is started it will become functional. This can be another good move for Singara Chennai

    • Yuvaraj says:

      Singapore doesn’t ask people to segregate waste. Yet they are one of the top countries that make most out of the waste with one of the highest reclycling efficiency. I am not against asking people to segregate waste, but that must not be a reason for not doing well in waste management.

  3. Geetha Mani says:

    Singara Chennai 1 saw an absolutely useless flyover in adyar junction. Let’s hope we don’t get to see such monumental stupidity. By the way HOW MANY FOREIGN TRIPS FOR THIS PLAN? Remember, many DMK people went all over the world to make chennai beautiful. Did they? No

    • S Raghavan says:

      Before using words like Useless, Stupidity, spare a thought on planners, designers and the location specific constraints. Flyovers are constructed by professionals. We welcome better suggestions but will rubbish ridicule and nit prick.

  4. Rahim says:

    Iam near by the kodungaiyur dumpyard every day we are suffering from foul smell from the dumpyard, and my parents were suffered from asthma and lungs problem. The streets are not clean garbage is spreaded here and there so mosquitoes and houseflies are more in this areas, I request this singara chennai will be applicable in kodungaiyur North chennai. If you please Inspect this places andmake it clean, I will be very thankful to you.

  5. Ramanan R says:

    The disposal of mask that we are wearing should take place in a proper way to avoid spread of infection.

  6. Shoba says:

    Along with all the clean up processes, hoping the corporation would remove mud along the footpaths, which could prevent silting of stormwater drains as well as stagnation of rain water

  7. Madhu Manjari says:

    This is a great step. Including this the city has to be set free from paper poster sticking on walls, bridges and area sinages. The biggest market like koyambedu and bus stations needs to be altered. Strict rules has to brought preventing people from spiting and peeing on road sides.

  8. Rkn says:

    First & foremost bring all CMDA approved areas with proper roads, drinages and metro water.
    Make panchayats to check every unauthorised occupancy by house owners of planned street width.
    Make all punchayat to hv strict cleaning etc mainly which comes under chennai area.
    For ready reference you hv sendurpuram extension at kattupakkam where total width of road narrowed by house owners by occupying the street/road area. Demolish them. This is not even attended by the panchayat. Strict discipline and tree plantation by every house owner must be made as rule make green

  9. Amy says:

    People living next to Buckingham canal , otteri nala always have mosquitoes menace and foul smell in their home and surrounding all through the year. Whether anyone has plans to make our city waterways clean. These waters goes to our underground water making it unsafe to drink for million of people of chennai.

  10. Sheela p .g says:

    Awarness to every citizen about cleanliness.Penalty should be forced as in singapore for not maintaining cleanliness.
    Every street must maintained clean with the help of counsellors and attractive prizes or street name which is very clean should be announce in social media which will be a motivation for other streets.
    Each one of the citizens should have civic sense which can be inculcated by regular propaganda

  11. GIRI D V says:

    No mention of pavements free of encroachments.

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