On a landmark watch

Going past mere celebration of places of repute, Kannalmozhi Kabilan looks at what we can do to give a facelift to some of our city’s landmarks

author_img Kannalmozhi Kabilan Published :  21st October 2021 01:54 PM   |   Published :   |  21st October 2021 01:54 PM
On a landmark watch

On a landmark watch

Going past mere celebration of places of repute, Kannalmozhi Kabilan looks at what we can do to give a facelift to some of our city’s landmarks

Pulicat/Wetlands of Chennai

While all our wetlands have been desperate for attention for decades, it is the Pulicat Lake that is in dire straits. The second-largest brackish water lake in India is under threat due to the expansion of the Katupalli port that is being planned. “The longshore erosion to the northern coast towards Pulicat that will be triggered if such a large port is being planned will wash away the fragile sand bar that now separates the lake and the Bay of Bengal. If this happens, the entire coastline of north Tamil Nadu and south Andhra Pradesh will have been altered.

This will result in tidal influence moving inland, transforming the brackish water ecosystem into a marine one, wiping out the brackish water biodiversity,” explains Pooja Kumar, coordinator for Coastal Resource Centre, Chennai. While the livelihood of people from over 50 fishing villages in AP and TN are already bleak due to siltation, discharge of effluents, river mouth closure, etc., this would only make it worse. “There is an immediate need for a complete evaluation of the state of wetlands, including Pulicat, from a biodiversity service and livelihood support POV. And that should inform processes for restoration. The state wetland authority is still an authority on paper; they need to be pushed into action,” she suggests. While the DMK government promised to stop the expansion of the port, it remains to be seen how it will take the promise forward.

Arignar Anna Poonga, Royapuram

Royapuram’s Arignar Anna park gained its landmark status by playing host to a watershed moment in Tamil Nadu politics. While it was CN Annadurai announcing the launch of the DMK in 1949 that brought it significance and a new name (formerly known as Robinson Park), it was the return of the DMK to power that has kicked up its revival proposal. The park that sees over 5,000 visitors every day had fallen prey to poor maintenance that most of our city parks have had to deal with at one point or the other.

Loss of greenery, playthings rusting away, a landfill in the making outside the park and inadequate parking space seem to be the major points of trouble. However, MLA ‘Idream’ R Murthy — DMK’s representative from the segment in 20 years — is all set to change that. After inspections with corporation officials and a meeting with park association members and regular visitors, Murthy has submitted a proposal to the government. The facelift would restore the park’s old road and help increase its size to where it was, he had said.

Armenian Street

The way we think about heritage — most of the time — we only think of what’s on the facade without knowing the story inside. But, it (Armenian Street) is a bustling place and the Armenian Church is a living heritage that is taken care of (by one family) quite well, comparatively, although they do require support and help” begins Thirupurasundari Sevvel, management professional and founder of Nam Veedu Nam Oor Nam Kadhai. Till just before the pandemic, the church had attracted Armenians once a year for a special mass. Right next to the church is a stationery shop that still offers typewriter materials (from ribbon and ink to practice books), Hero pens and wooden scales.

Nearby, there’s a woman who makes cloth cases for phones, ones that can be customised to any size or form. There are about six rickshaws in active service, she details. All this has started receiving attention, thanks to historians in the city. “What we have to do now is tell people the stories (of this place), inform them of its potential as a place to visit. But all this with the right procedure — it comes with acquiring the necessary permits and permission,” she points out. With the entire street filled with domestic and commercial heritage structures, there’s room for maintenance in terms of fixing the Madras terrace in the structure or signages or the flooring or ensuring that the surroundings are kept clear of plant overgrowth and basic urban maintenance. This kind of attention too would help, she suggests.

Mint Street

While the long, narrow lanes that make up this landmark in the northern part of Chennai has held on to the commercial hub tag for decades, it could use some help in upping its game, especially given its immense potential for food tourism. It’s far from being organised for it at this point, says Sridhar Venkataraman, co-founder of Chennai Food Walk. “There are people like me who do these food walks but it is not popularised that well. The Tourism Department also doesn’t concentrate on these kinds of quick wins. The biggest problem is the eateries that exist don’t have a mechanism to advertise themselves,” he explains.

Active participation from the department — inviting people to contribute to programmes — could go a long way, he suggests. Attending to the area’s traffic woes would be another huge improvement, he says. Wholesale trade brings in plenty of commercial traffic; the problem at Mint Street is that there is no system in place to regulate the comings and goings of this section of vehicles, forcing it to coexist disharmoniously with local traffic. Incentivising a prudent system would not only help the traders but the public looking to access these shops too. But, it’s not without some terms and conditions. “You cannot really expand the roads, cannot create new infrastructure there, cannot bring down the buildings and destroy the heritage aspect,” he notes. Besides this, creating a detailed catalogue of the kind of shops, services and goods available in the many lanes of Mint Street — a one-stop guide — would be a big upgrade in itself, he says.