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Property Plus — Chennai

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A rural suburb turns a 'flat' zone

Once a pastoral village, Mogappair has turned a vertically-enabled residential neighbourhood. PRINCE FREDERICK tracks the changes over the years.

Pic by K. Pichumani

A bustling Collector Nagar Road near MMM Hospital in East Mogappair.

IT was once a sparsely populated back-of-beyond. Today Mogappair is a burgeoning residential locality that is punctuated with apartment complexes where residents live a `flat' existence and do not know their neighbours from Adam. A beehive of construction activity, you can always see some promoter or the other breaking ground on a `vertical' project in this north-western suburb.

Maga-p-peru to Mogappair

Mogappair was once Maga-p-peru (meaning "blessed with a son"). This name derived from the belief that the deity in the Santhana Srinivasa Perumal Koil there granted the blessing of parenthood to childless couples. After persistent mispronounciation, the name `evolved' to its present form. An old resident quips, "The pronunciation has no doubt changed; even more so the character of the neighbourhood."

"The change has been phenomenal," exclaims R. Rangarajan, a resident of Thiruvalluvar Nagar in East Mogappair. "Once cultivated lands stretched away endlessly. Irrigated by the Mogappair Eri and Ambattur Eri, whatever crop was planted flourished," smiles Saravana Perumal, an old resident of Mogappair. Though the locality was idyllic and scenic, some outsiders used to shiver at the mention of the name `Mogappair'. "Unfortunately, the place came to be associated with moon-shining and other shady activities," says Mr. Rangarajan.

TNHB catalyses growth

The coming of the Ambattur Industrial Estate changed the contours of Mogappair as also the images it evoked. The State Government, through schemes anchored by the Tamil Nadu Housing Board, wanted to make Mogappair a residential suburb, primarily for those employed in industrial units in neighbouring areas.

"Despite TNHB's efforts, the area took its time developing. Even in the early 1980s, people were reluctant to settle down here. Well, who would not be unnerved by the sight of snakes slithering around his house? Such conditions used to drive people up the wall. Landowners in places like VGP Nagar and Panner Nagar were willing to sell their land for Rs. 5,000 a ground," says Mr. Rangarajan. How much does a ground cost now? "In J.J. Nagar (East Mogappair), ground prices vary from Rs. 8 lakhs to 18 lakhs, depending on factors such as location and road width," says M.M. Ahmed of Mariam and Co. "Around Mogappair, there is demand for small 450-sqft plots that come at Rs. 6 lakhs each. There are also takers for colonies of small row houses. Commercial land costs Rs. 25 lakhs to 30 lakhs. Residential flats come at Rs. 1200-1300 per sqft. There are some TNHB flats that could be bought at Rs. 1000-1,100 per sqft."

Initially, TNHB was working overtime in this suburb, setting up MIG and LIG housing colonies. Then with the Mogappair Eri scheme, which catered to the high-income groups as well, the neighbourhood's image soared. Government officials from the top drawer set up hearth here. Though the latest apartment complexes that have come up in the Mogappair Eri Scheme stand out from the rest of the buildings in terms of structure and design, they have only closed windows and locked doors to show. In recent years, private enterprise has been getting in on the act and putting many eye-catching apartment complexes on the Mogappair landscape.

Sewage, water problems

In striking contrast, many other areas in Mogappair present a picture of squalor. Take Senthamizh Nagar. "The Mangaleri Kulam near the Aslathamman Koil here used to provide us with drinkable water. Today, the pond is dry as a bone. But that is not as much of an issue as the encroachment there.

What is worse, sewage water is being discharged into what is left of the pond through clandestine connections," rues Mr. Perumal. Largely due to the TNHB presence, an effective drainage system is in place in most areas. But in some, it is conspicuously absent. "The three oldest streets — Vellalar Street, Sathaval Street and Karnan Street — are examples," he says. So is Spartan Nagar, where high-income groups live.

Water is a sore point. The increase in apartment complexes has pushed groundwater tables to new lows. "The wells have all but gone dry. Most of us have sunk borewells. We have a competition going: who sinks the deepest ," laughs a resident. Residents living in areas near the Mogappair East and West industrial areas say they find the noise from the units jarring and disturbing.

Well connected and safe

One can have no complaints where connectivity is concerned. Buses ply even on roads that wind like a snake. Take Thiruvalluvar Nagar. In the 1980s, there were only two infrequent mini-bus (20G and 20H) services. Today, D70, 15A, 40A, 24A, 41A and other buses scruff their tyres on this road. There is also a spacious bus depot in West Mogappair.

As Mogappair swarms like a beehive, do law enforcers in the area finding their job quite a handful? "No," says R. Subbaraju, Inspector, JJ Nagar Police Station. "In 2003, there were just four house-break cases in Mogappair."

How do they manage to keep crime under check? "We enlist residents' help. Through a `Friends of Police' programme, residents go on night patrols with the policemen."

Schools and hospitals and guest houses define Mogappair to a great extent. This suburb abounds with schools. Hospitals are a close second. There are the speciality Madras Medical Mission and the newly set-up International Centre for Cardio Thoracic and Vascular Diseases, and also a few multi-speciality hospitals around the locality.

Mogappair is many things rolled into one. You may call it what you will. A `flat' zone. A neighbourhood full of schools. A suburb with many hospitals.

Above all, Mogappair is a place whose time has come.

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