Grandma's Tales

April 1, 2007

The Elliot’s beach saga – 12 Response to Corporation’s plan

Filed under: Consumer caution,Games People Play,Government,Society — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 6:22 pm

The meeting took place at the Boys’ Club today. the Commissioner was an hour late, but he did come. So did the local officials. They had cleaned up the humble place and had sprayed insecticide to preserve the Commissioner’s health.
The Director and teachers of Vidya Sagar, an NGO that works for childen with autism and CP were there too. They had brought with them twin boys in wheelchairs. Kaushik, another wheelchair user joined the meeting. There were walkers, joggers, fishermen, senior citizens – a fair representation of stakeholders of the beach.
Sumitra of CSG did a PPT presentation explaining the results of the survey (read post below). The group had also incorporated suggestions for each problem. One surprising result was what the senior citizens said about the spine that would lead to the waterfront. Not one of them wanted it! The corporation had said that it was meant for the senior citizens and disabled persons – an indication of how much off the mark Corporation’s thinking is. Remember, a majority of the senior citizens are regulars and are also residents of the area.
Some of the suggestions of the CSG that found total favour among the respondents were:
[1] Make the beach a plastic-free zone.
[2] Regulate taffic and parking (residents are the worst affected in this).
[3] Get all the hawkers to stay in one place.
[4] Consider making the beach a traffic-free zone at least for a few hours daily, as has been done in Puducherry.
[5] Don’t commercialise the area across. That means more garbage. Give licenses to hawkers.
[6] Remove billboards on the beachfront, so there are no bright lights facing the beach (this is to help the sea turtle hatchlings to get back to the sea).
Tara Murali, a renowned architect and local resident, made a presentation. Her ideas were innovative, keeping in mind the ecology and sustainability of beautification. “Sun, sand, sea and sustainability” she said. The main points in her PPT.
[1] Reclaim the beach by removing the food court and the demolishing the dilapidated structure known as Governor’s bungalow (“It’s a shame to call it Governor’s bungalow!”).
[2] Use this area to improve amenities for the skating rink, gym or any beachy game.
[3] Leave the consructed promenade as it is and take off the joggers’ track. Leave the police kiosk as it is.
[4] Make the beach one way. A 100 ft road is unnecessary here. Use the entire half of the road a parking and hawker zone. Which means both hawkers and vehicles are out of the beach.
[5] Demarcate a strip on the road (close to the parking area) for the hawkers. This area should be 1 metre below street level and the hawkers arrange themselves in two rows, back to back. This would make garbage collection easier and disallow them from occupying the beach permanently.
[6] For wheelchair users, a wooden, pier-like structure could be built from the road to the sea, if sand buggies could not be provided.
[7] Improving basic amenities for the fishing communities on either side of the beach was essential to keep the beach pristine. At this point, a fisherman said it was not their folk, but the well-heeled visitors who bought foodstuff at shops across the beach road who littered it.
Commissioner Lakhoni had a few things to say.
[a] Keeping the kuppams (fishing villages) clean was mandatory for the corporation. He would do it.
[b] The wooden pier was a no-go. It would break, the pillars would be stolen, and how could anyone build a pier with wood alone? Wouldn’t it need civil work? So buggies would be the answer. (Mr. L clearly is not an architect.)
[c] Instead of the depression on the road, hawkers could be put in a row near the rink and could be given the same-sized carts. Tara Murali said he had to make sure they didn’t occupy the area permanently. Each one pushes the cart in, sells and leaves after a few hours.
[d] He understood that there should be no construction within the beach. (Is it too early to say “Hurray”!)
[e] Cleaning would have to be outsourced. Sumitra said it was the corporation’s duty to maintain public places. Shouldn’t it improve its own services and clean up the beach? Mr. L did not answer.
[f] His new plan would be prepared on the basis of access, impact of settlements on the beach, parking, no construction and facilities for hawkers.
It was time for the audience to react. Vidya Sagar representatives said making public places accessible was legislated and so non-negotiable. The pier idea was the best one since the NGO wanted to bring about 25 students at a time. A couple of early morning walkers said toilets should charge a fee and squatters should be disciplined. One elderly lady said she wanted access to the promenade. Another pleaded for total visibility to the water from the road.
The wheelchair user said at least one toilet should be disabled-friendly. To everyone’s horror, Mr. L replied, “All are expected to walk to the toilet!” Were it not so cruel, it would have made us all laugh.
Then came the threat. Mr. L warned, “What we bring the next time would be the final plan. We cannot delay the project any further.” CSG’s Nity said that they had done the survey in record time and would need at least three weeks to process the final plan.
Interesting sidelights:
[1] In his opening speech, Nity informed told the audience, “When I went to the Commissioner with our objection to the original plan, he asked, “Who are you?” It’s good that he is here today to talk to us.”
[2] Why is the Commissioner in a tearing hurry to start construction? Isn’t the local people’s approval necessary for such projects? Aren’t civic plans meant for the stakeholders, as opposed to the members of the Corporation?
Mmm.. wait and watch.

1 Comment »

  1. Dear Ma’am

    I am a student of the IIT classes at Sriram Academy and a few things you have said have made me put my thinking cap on!
    I’m not too great at penning down my thoughts but i am going to give it a shot anyway. So here goes..
    I am a resident of Thiruvanmiyur and a regular visitor of Elliots Beach.
    Yesterday I was at the beach with a couple of friends and it was only then i truly realised the atrocious nature of the plan developed by the corporation for the so called ‘beautification’ of the beach.
    First of all the corporation must realise that it is nothing more than a municipal authority and it has absolutely no right to take the law into its hands.
    There is a very clear rule that no construction can be made 500 metres within the coastal zone. I’m not too sure but I presume that our beloved beach is a High Tide Zone. The Corporation seems to be blind to the fact that the future is unpredictable and natural calamities like the Tsunami ( which is not new to our state ) could wash away not only the constructions but also the numerous people that the cement will be attracting.
    The Childrens Park,which it is planning to bring in, seems to be uncalled for as the kids are pretty content running around in the sand, playing in the water, building sand castles and collecting shells. If they really wanted to visit a park, why would they be coming to the beach every weekend?
    As for the senior citizens, they would voice their needs (if they really had any!!)
    They aren’t asking for any construction on the beach, thank you very much!
    The corporation seems to be fogettin that there is a church nearby. A church is a religious place where people come to connect with god in peace. If an amphitheatre is built in the middle of the beach, there is going to be blaring music, speeches etc. This will disturb the people who come to pray.Plus, the poor residents of that locality will have hearing problems, in addition to parking problems ofcourse!
    There are other ways of helping the disabled rather than constructing a pathway for them to come near the beach. Heaven forbid, incase something happens, will they be able to save themselves? Or is there going to be enough safety measures provided to them?
    Last but not the least, the young boys who come faithfully to the beach to play football and volleyball everyday, aren’t you depriving them of their joy?
    People who come to meditate on the beach, would they really want cement offsprings one fine day?
    There is a chinky lady on a wheelchair who visits our beach so very often, there is an old lady who sits on the steps of the bank nearby, and does her knitting watching the beach for as long as i can remember, there are the turtle walkers who sacrifice their nights sleep to save the riddley turtles, there are volunteers who clean the beach or simply stated there are people who come to the sand and watch the clear blue sea.
    Does the corporation know of their existence? Have they asked the permission of these people? ?
    The beach belongs to us and it is here to stay! We will not let it become history!!


    P.S. is there any way i can voice my views on this issue in the ‘sound off’ column in metroplus?

    Comment by Nithya — April 7, 2007 @ 1:54 pm | Reply

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