Shaping the future of Chennai through the Third Master Plan

The Third Master Plan preparation is underway. Here is what experts, residents and CMDA's Member Secretary had to say on the future of Chennai.

As Chennai expands and develops at warp speed, it becomes vital to streamline growth. The Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) has been organising public consultations across the Chennai Metropolitan Area to prepare the vision document for the Third Master Plan (2026-2046).

What should be the focus of the Third Master Plan? How can we make public consultations more participatory? What do the people in Chennai want from it?

Citizen Matters puts together a panel with six panellists to discuss these issues: CMDA Member Secretary Anshul Mishra, Town Planner K M Sadhanandh, Former Professor and Guest Faculty KP Subramanian of Anna University, Conservationist Jayanthi Premchandar, Civic Activist V Ramarao and Senior Associate Rashee Mehra of Indian Institute of Human Settlements.

“A master plan paves the way to shape the city’s future systematically,” says Sadhanand. “A master plan for a small piece of land must include analyses, proposals and recommendations. However, for a metropolitan area, we need to account for the population, housing and economy to prepare the plan,” he explains. 

“If a master plan is well-prepared and carried out, people will not have issues with accessing basic amenities like electricity, water supply, road, sewerage and so on,” says Sadhanand. 

Read more: Webinar alert: Will Chennai’s Third Master Plan meet people’s expectations?

Reflecting on the Second Master Plan of Chennai

Reviewing the Second Master Plan is the first step in formulating the Third Master Plan according to Professor KP Subramanian.

“It must include the previous proposals and their results. We should also see what lessons we can learn from the previous master plan,” he says.

“Around 30% of the Second Master Plan has been completed,” says Anshul Mishra.

What did the older master plans miss out on?

  • The previous master plans proposed to create four towns: MM Nagar, Tiruvallur, Gummidipoondi and Sriperumbudur. Barring MM Nagar, the other three areas have not yet seen progress, points out Subramanian.
  • The First Master Plan proposed six urban nodes along the three transportation corridors like Alandur-Tambaram, Manali-Minjur and Ambattur-Avadi. Only the Manali-Minjur node has been developed.
  • According to the Tamil Nadu Town and Country Planning Act, 1971, the master plan should undergo review every five years. “No master plan has been reviewed every five years,” says Subramanian.

The master plans of the past have had a lot of promises but many are yet to materialise.

“Even though the earlier plans reflected the aspirations of Chennai, they did not see complete implementation,” notes the Member Secretary of CMDA. “Implementation plan involves which agencies that implement the plan and whether their visions align with the master plan’s vision. Probably these aspects were not addressed previously to ensure cooperation and coordination with different agencies.”

The Member Secretary also talks about funding issues. “If there are no plans for getting funds, projects won’t see progress. This has happened previously.”

Making a master plan is complex and dynamic. “Therefore, to bring a master plan that realises the true aspirations of people, we are trying to connect with as many people as possible through offline and online methods,” explains the Member Secretary.

City planning cannot happen without citizen participation

Although it is a welcome move by CMDA to consult the public before coming up with the vision document for the master plan, the urban planners opine that it is important to educate the common public about the scope of a master plan.

CMDA also organised public consultations for different zones in Chennai and its suburbs.

“We came to know about the public consultations organised by CMDA through NGOs and activists and other social media groups. We were not specifically invited for the consultations,” says Jayanthi, who attended the consultation for Zone 13.

Jayanthi saw around 50 people only in the session and only two ward councillors among the 12 wards in the zone. Moreover, she did not see people from informal settlements, vendors, and other communities.

“There was no orientation about the master plan during the consultation session also,” she notes. “We gave our suggestions that were recorded by some elected representatives. However, we do not know how these suggestions will be used.”

“Just a couple of days before the session we got to know about the public consultation, which did not give us enough time to prepare,” says Ramarao, who attended the consultation organised in Zone 12.

Ramarao and Jayanthi share their suggestions for the master plan: providing basic amenities like good roads, water supply and sewerage to citizens; saving lakes of the Chennai Metropolitan Area; creating water storage facilities to prevent water scarcity.

Learning from the Delhi model: The Main Bhi Dilli (I am Delhi too) campaign, focussed on increasing citizen participation while planning Delhi.

Rashee Mehra, who was part of the campaign talks about it. “Planning a city can be contrary to the informalities in housing and livelihoods sometimes. The campaign aimed to bring in the voices of people who live in informal settlements, resettlement and unauthorised colonies, who may be left out of planning a city.”

The campaign has brought 25,000 out of 33,000 public suggestions and objections to the Delhi Development Authority, which is the highest number of suggestions the body has received.

This can be a viable model to replicate to make the planning exercise in Chennai more participatory.

So far 3000 people have filled out the survey in offline and online methods given by CMDA, as part of the public consultation process.

Read more: Can Universal Design be the magic bullet for an accessible Chennai?

What makes a good Master Plan for Chennai?

Along with gauging public vision for Chennai, the city should be made efficient and sustainable, says the Member Secretary. Developing transport networks is useful economically and environmentally. “For instance, densifying metro corridors will ease transport options for people,” he says. “This will also reduce the carbon footprint of privately owned vehicles. Moreover, creating open and clean spaces along these transit networks will give people a good quality of life.”

chennai metro rail
Transit-oriented Development is the way to go to have an efficient and sustainable Chennai, says the Member Secretary. Source: CMRL

Urban planning experts and residents share some tips to keep in mind while drafting the Third Master Plan. 

  • The master plan must focus on affordable housing, and not just land use. CMDA should aim to build infrastructure, traffic and transportation networks, basic amenities and social institutions.
  • Instead of coming up with different categories of zones, the planning body can just have urbanisable (any use is permitted) and non-urbanisable zones (agriculture, waterbodies, etc.).
  • The heterogeneity of demographics must be accounted for while planning a city. For instance, instead of homogeneously looking at what women want in the city, one should look at what women of a particular economic standard want. Gender, caste and disability must also be integrated while forming the city plan.
  • There is a need to create a manual to come up with a master plan for Chennai. It will standardise the process and help everyone who is planning the city. 
  • “After planning, CMDA must delegate implementation and enforcement to other bodies like GCC or panchayats,” says Ramarao.

To submit your suggestion for CMDA’s Vision Document for Third Master Plan, please fill out this survey.

Follow the complete discussion here.

Also read:


  1. L.Sundararaman says:

    Nicely written.

  2. Kumar Annamalai says:

    Our CMDA layout Chendurpuram in kattupakkam village panchayat in poonamallee p.u. approved in 1988 still lacks drainage, motor able roads,HT wire just above domestic connection. We are fed up with your master plan.Although our area approved 35 years ago, sewage is flowing in street, no street name board apart from good roads.You first develop the existing layout and then go for next master plan.

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