Peri-urban sectors such as those of Chennai, once described as rural, have been converted into places of comfortable living and globally financed special economic zones. Chennai has expanded by occupying its peri-urban areas from the Colonial era for residential use and now both for residential and industrial applications at present. A lot of Chennai’s new urban development has been southwards. Chennai is bound on the East by the Bay of Bengal, and Northwards, it meets the edge of Andhra Pradesh.

Rethinking the urbanscapes of Chennai - Sheet1
Rethinking urban spaces of Chennai ©

Thus, it is predominantly the South that gives space for the city to develop and expand. South Chennai has been evolving as an IT corridor; in this means of development, the city has engulfed several fishing and agricultural villages and hamlets – producing several ecological and environmental difficulties that the current governance and regulatory devices are inadequate to cope with. Many of these obstacles have emerged from the outgrowth of the city beyond its capacity and the disconnect between urban and environmental planning.

Rethinking the urbanscapes of Chennai - Sheet2
Rethinking urban spaces of Chennai ©

The drop in the water table and salinity invasion are other rising issues. Further, the building of docks and roads is often made without the considerations of the hydrology of the areas. Flooding is a periurban problem that is human triggered because wetlands are turned to concrete and also because slum rehabilitation is moved to the wetlands and thus the natural course of water is seriously tampered with.

Six major challenges that Chennai faces are as follows: 

  • Water systems: Unavailability of infrastructure, Underinvestment
  • Metro governance: Lack of customized decision-making systems
  • Civic engagement: Lack of awareness among citizens, Citizen’s perception that their voice does not matter
  • Service delivery to vulnerable and low-income groups: Lack of land security, Caste discrimination 
  • Healthy and planned urbanization: Lack of integration between various bodies in planning, Short-term ‘quick fixes’ 
  • Financing urban resilience: Lack of government experience in engaging the private sector, Limited ability of local governments to generate revenue

Several factors added to the water crisis of Chennai like climate change and increasing temperatures on the one hand, and faulty urban management, mainly poor land use, and water management.

Rethinking the urbanscapes of Chennai - Sheet3
Rethinking urban spaces of Chennai ©

The marshlands are significant water bodies. They collect water in the dry season and counter flooding in the rainy season. There was an already existing whole natural balance that was slaughtered by the relocating residents in the various areas of Chennai. Enhancing the city and honoring the elite who live close to the center, comes at a tremendous cost for the poor population that gets relocated to the marsh areas. The environment suffers severe damage from this.

Rethinking the urbanscapes of Chennai - Sheet4
Rethinking urban spaces of Chennai ©

Solutions to these numerous problems would mean more decisive options that value both the ecosystem and livelihoods. A good plan has a thought that looks at long-term influence, sustainability, and also considers all the stakeholders. Solutions should look into ways of catching rainwater in the monsoon, reusing wastewater efficiently, contributing to farmers for innovative irrigation solutions, and in general supporting families to adopt smart solutions, like rain-catching edifices or wastewater recirculation mechanisms. The projects following describe how these urban issues can be tackled. 

Chennai’s T.Nagar Redevelopment Proposal

The concept for the redevelopment project considers T.Nagar as Chennai’s prime shopping neighborhood. It intends to function with its strengths and assets to improve its physical and natural environment into a healthy public domain.  

Rethinking the urbanscapes of Chennai - Sheet5
Rethinking urban spaces of Chennai ©
Rethinking the urbanscapes of Chennai - Sheet6
Rethinking urban spaces of Chennai ©

Re-linking Panagal Park into a seamless streetscape opposite the park and restoring its position as the green lung of the district was one of the striking features of the proposal, including the requirement to relieve the claustrophobia and congestion generated by Usman Road flyover. This is accomplished by releasing up some space under the bridge as a pedestrian-only region and shifting the Panagal Park market on the east side of the park. The theory of pedestrianized streets is reaffirmed by an integrated public transport system that ensures ease of transition into the region by making cars redundant in the core.

Project team: Vidhya Mohankumar, Mahesh Radhakrishnan
With: MOAD

Reimagining Chennai’s Buckingham Canal

Eyes on the Canal, Open ideas Competition

This proposal recognizes the channel as a unifying component to understand and solve the multiple dangers and synergies between various levels of systems. It recognizes the risks associated and utilizes local systems that are contextual and receptive to ground certainties. It also develops community force and neighborhood engagement. The issue of pollution is managed through decentralized solutions for waste management and sewage treatment. It concentrates on enhancing the quality of life for the elderly, women, and children. Through placemaking, it attempts to convert the locally unwanted area into a precious community asset.

Project team: Studio POD

Mylapore Trail

Mylapore was originally planned as a smart city with a flexible water infrastructure that can retain rainwater in the monsoons for use in the dry season. Current development models in the historic center of Chennai have killed the functionality and awareness of its temple tanks. But with brilliant existing water infrastructure and ideal soil requirements, there is no reason for Mylapore to be left vulnerable to flood and drought. “Mylapore Trail” tries to repair and improve Chennai’s primary water heritage, offering it as an established model for the rest of the city as well as creating it as a sustainable tourist attraction. An integrated system of bioswales unites the latest recharge tanks to create a flexible and highly evident system that raises awareness, highlights historic spaces, and grows the overall attractiveness of the neighborhood for the benefit of tourism, commerce, and livability.


Shraddha Erandole, an architect by profession and curious by nature. A firm believer in architecture and research, when combined with design thinking, it helps in strengthening our society and has a positive effect. If not reading, you will always find her sipping coffee and capturing the sky.