Maldevelopment in Chennai

Thanks to Mark, who led us to this news by sending a link to an article by Nityanand Jayaraman [18.1.11], which can be read in full on the site of CorpWatch USA:  

Various aspects of the report will remind readers of other unwanted projects: Enron in Ratnagiri, various campaigns against illegal coastal development and P&O’s attempt to build a huge port in Dahanu.    

In 2008, enterprising US-based Wilbur Smith Associates, already constructing India’s Eastern and Western Dedicated Rail Corridors and building rail tunnels, applied for permission to build a 6-mile long elevated expressway running through four beaches and 14 fishing villages in Chennai, which, as the Times of India reported, would cut down the travel time and fuel costs for heavy vehicles headed to the Chennai port.

In August, citizens and fisherfolk formed a human chain in protest against the plan – see picture in The Hindu.   


It is feared that the roads will affect the banks and the beds of the city’s two rivers, the Adyar and the Cooum [or Coovum], aggravating the floods that ravage the city during the annual monsoons.    

The projects will render more than 100,000 people homeless. Some will be relocated but Sundara Moorthy, a resident of the Urur Kuppam fishing village, says: “Alternative housing in a distant location makes absolutely no sense to us. As fisherfolk, we live and die by the sea.”    

Urur Kuppam, a fishing village, is a haven for migratory birds and its beach is used only by turtles and fisherfolk. The Student Sea Turtle Conservation Network sets up a make-shift turtle hatchery there every December.    


Wilbur Smith reported that it held consultations in five fishing villages with five fishing leaders and that the fisherfolk agreed “to move from the coast if there is any unavoidable requirement.”    

However, in June 2010, all five fishing leaders named in the report wrote to the Tamil Nadu chief minister denying that Wilbur Smith held any consultations in their villages. The Highways Department revealed that neither the department nor Wilbur Smith could document that consultations had taken place.    

The River Cooum is a stone’s throw from the balcony of N. Balasubramanian, a veteran civil engineer and consultant, who worked for Wilbur Smith in the 1960s. “The Cooum Expressway feasibility study is a fraud. The consultant claims to have taken a borehole soil sample there,” Balasubramanian says, pointing about 50 feet away. “That is impossible to do without my knowledge.”    


Activists argue that all three of Wilbur Smith’s projects in Chennai violate the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Notification, 1991, which regulates development within 500 meters of the sea in order to protect the coastal environment.    

Looking for ‘planning gain’: townships and Special Economic Zones 

Sources in the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways told the Deccan Herald that the Union wants to develop townships and SEZs around the expressways and provide additional traffic, increasing the financial viability of the projects. The Ministry officials have already held the first round of talks with major real-estate developers for the proposed projects and have got a positive feed-back.    

Whilst in America such expressways are being rejected and demolished  

American cities have found expressways wanting: Boston, Milwaukee, Portland and San Francisco – below – have torn down the urban expressways built in the ‘60s.   


So Wilbur Smith seeks new clients for these rejected structures in India.



A definition of maldevelopment was found:  

Maldevelopment is a global concept that includes human and social development. Under the philosophy of sustainable development, economic development is only a “tool” that allows for greater human and social development, not the final goal. Under-development is a quantitative notion, implying that a nation has a lack and must gain something to reach a particular reference state—the state of the nation that judges another nation as underdeveloped. So this notion also implies a unique development model—the one of the judging nation. 

Mal-development, or ill-development, is a qualitative notion that expresses a mismatch, a discrepancy between the conditions (economic, political, meteorological, cultural, etc.) and the needs and means of the people. 





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