Grandma's Tales

March 5, 2007

The Elliot’s beach saga- 10 An expert speaks!

Filed under: Consumer caution,Games People Play,Society — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 9:05 pm

I watched “Mozhi” again today. I had a few things to say about that experience, but I guess that will have to wait. Here is a letter in response to the pictures and the minutes Mr. S sent to all friends and well-wishers of the beach.
Deputy Director-General of Meteorology (Retd.)
Fellow of the Indian Meteorological India Society

Consultant to Indian Space
Research Organisation
Dear Mr. Satyanarayanan,
Thank you for sending me the Report on the meeting of 28 February 2007, regarding the beach beautification scheme and giving me an opportunity to comment on the same. I am sorry my response is delayed as I was away on tour (to Sriharikota) from 1 March.
My comments are as below:
1. We all have to abide by the laws of the country. The government and public bodies should set the example. They also have the duty to ensure that everyone follows the law in letter and spirit.
2. As per the Coastal Zone Regulation Notification (1991)
“500 metres on the landward side from the High Tide Line (HTL) and the land area between the Low Tide Line (LTL) and HTL including 500 metres along the tidal influenced water bodies subject to a minimum of 100 m on the width of the water body, whichever is less” is declared as CRZ area.
The importance of this was brought home by the Tsunami of December 2004. The M.S. Swaminathan committee which reviewed the CRZ notification (Swaminathan, 2005)[1] has found that wherever the natural coastal vegetation etc. were not disturbed, the tsunami damage was much less severe.
The Swaminathan committee has recommended recasting of the CRZ principles on a scientific basis. Until the Government of India does this, the present CRZ regulations have to be followed.
3. Subsequent to the tsunami, the waterline on the beach has been going back and forth by several metres. Therefore any construction close to the water has to be ruled out.
4. Any proposal regarding the beautification should be taken up only with the concurrence of experts in environmental matters.
5. We should also take lessons from the results of past activities.
On this beach children’s play equipment was installed but rusted in no time leaving protruding sharp edges of rusted metal dangerous to children. These have since been removed. Several huts were constructed. They have since been demolished but the rubble still remains. The so-called jogging track does not have proper slope or drainage and gets flooded.
In the San Thome area palm trees were planted but none survived. Palm trees do not belong in this area. If vegetation is to be provided, the species should be selected according to expert advice.
The fate of Pattinappakkam is still fresh in our memory.
Tamil Nadu has experienced loss of land due to natural phenomena both in historical times and more recent ones (e.g. Dhanushkodi in 1964, Mahabalipuram and Poompuhar much earlier and the legendary Kumari Kandam in times yet to be investigated. Let us remember the lessons.
6. I suggest that any kind of alteration, or construction or installation of facilities (with the sole exception of toilets) should be only on the western side of the present walkway. There was a mention of a road over the beach to connect to the East Coast road. The CRZ notification prohibits construction of roads those not approved in the Coastal Zone Management Plans, airstrips, railway lines etc., in the Coastal Regulation Zone area. Plan if any for a road should be abandoned.
7. Present constructions on the beach which violate the CRZ should be reviewed case by case. The Governor’s bungalow, the Beach Castle restaurant and the skating rink need to be removed. Any other pucca buildings should also be reviewed if they violate the CRZ regulations.
8. Regulation of the Ashtalakshmi temple area which is extremely shabby at present is also necessary.
9. Any beautification plan should provide for proper maintenance of facilities. We are good at creating new facilities but do not provide for maintenance. There are numerous examples of this in this City and elsewhere.
An example is the pay toilet at Mahabalipuram tourist complex. Besides collecting Rs. 2 for the urinal (probably the costliest in India) the municipality there but does not provide any cleaning or maintenance. The condition of that toilet is intolerable. (I wrote to the Tourism Dept. but received no reply.).
To avoid repetition of that here, modern toilets as proposed, need to be constructed but providing for water supply, drainage and maintenance. We have also to face realities. If the toilet is made a pay toilet most people will continue to use the beach as toilet. Hence it may perhaps have to be made free.
If the vendors’ stalls are to continue on the sands they should be provided aesthetic cubicles and should be disciplined and not allowed to scatter litter. The beach-goers should be similarly disciplined by enforcing punitive measures. (The back-breaking work of Exnora staff in cleaning the beach is rendered useless at present by the litterers). Such measures can be taken of course only by the Government and statutory bodies and not by Exnora or any other NGO.

Awareness may be created among the fisherfolk who live in this area that they have a stake here more than others and they should help keep the place clean. I am sure they will cooperate if motivated.
10. The proposed pillars do not seem to serve any purpose other than reminding us of the ruins and ancient monuments in Greece, Rome or Delhi.
11. The KAJ Schmidt monument may be preserved according to proper conservation methods and be spared of garish constructions around it.
12. I agree with the suggestion that for the physically challenged and elderly people to access the beach “alternative methods such as handicapped two-wheelers drawn or pedal-driven with sand riding tyres could be considered even for a fee”.
I presume you may be giving the news of the present exercise in Environment Ambassdor so that more people can be drawn into the debate.
S. Raghavan
11/16, Bayline Apartments, 15, 2nd Cross St., Radhakrishnan Nagar, Chennai – 600041
Tel: (91)-(44) – 24522228, Mobile: + 91 94443 86928, Email:,
5 March 2007
So here it is, folks! I wrote from the heart, but here is the voice of authority, from a scientist. (I love the word “litterers”.) It is clear to me that any such plan which involves “beautification structures” would be a disaster and we have past experience to prove it. Make your choice, now.

[1] Swaminathan M.S., 2005, Report of the Committee to review the Coastal Regulation Zone
Notification, 1991, February 2005, 122 pages pdf file
This is a “must read” for all of us.


1 Comment »

  1. […] post by Geeta Padmanabhan and plugin by Elliott Back […]

    Pingback by Vanguard Saga Of Heroes » The Elliot’s beach saga- 10 An expert speaks! — March 5, 2007 @ 11:31 pm | Reply

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