Even as the controversy over whether Alappuzha will actually turn 250 years old next year is yet to die down, a new debate has cropped, one that challenges the sobriquet ‘Venice of the East’ that was bestowed upon the coastal town by former Viceroy of India, George Nathaniel Curzon in the early 1900s.

The person who triggered the controversy over the tourist town’s age, T.M. Thomas Isaac, MLA, when he declared here recently that the 250{+t}{+h} anniversary of the formation of the town would be celebrated next year, himself is behind the new debate, one that centres around a presentation made by Binumol Tom, an architecture professor with the College of Engineering, Thiruvananthapuram.

Ms. Tom, at a seminar on Alappuzha’s heritage initiated by Dr. Isaac here on Saturday, stated that Alappuzha, with its canals and bridges, bore more resemblance to the Dutch city of Leiden than the Italian city of Venice. Ms. Tom, reading out excerpts from her post-doctoral thesis, pointed out that Venice was a much larger city, with about 120 small islands, nearly 200 canals and above 400 bridges. Alappuzha, she stated, was more similar to Leiden, with its large share of Dutch architecture, the buildings alongside the canals, its 10-metre wide roads and 12-metre wide canals.

Ms. Tom also argued for preservation of the heritage structures in the town as it grew with newer buildings and roads.

Veteran academician Kalleli Raghavan Pillai, who had joined issue with Dr. Isaac over the age of the town by saying that Alappuzha was not yet 250 years old, agreed to Ms. Tom’s presentation and said that it was just a spontaneous comment from Lord Curzon that led to Alappuzha being called the ‘Venice of the East’ and that it should not be necessarily accurate.

The seminar, which organizers say is just the beginning of the debate with more such discussions on the cards, also had noted architect Benny Kuriakose explaining on conservation and preservation of heritage structures. Dr. Isaac and Municipal Chairperson Mercy Diana Macido too spoke among others.

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