Civic body unable to pursue facelift due to illegal shops; will make small alterations

Damages to the promenade of Marina Beach that have emerged as eyesores of late will soon be set right.

Bids for restoration of the fountain and artificial cascade near the Triumph of Labour Statue, renovation of the swimming pool and toilets in four different locations, all at an estimated cost of Rs .23 lakh, are among those being floated this week.

“We are going to replace fibre doors in toilets with steel doors. Some people regularly damage such facilities,” said an official of the Chennai Corporation.

Even the design of public toilets and other utilitarian structures are known to contribute to the architectural character of the promenade. The current makeover is thus expected to improve the aesthetics and enhance the unique contour and character of the beach.

The earlier proposal for makeover of the space surrounding the statues, the children’s play area and the bus terminus at a cost of Rs. 4.84 crore was put on hold due to the inability of the Corporation to evict illegal eateries. The Chennai Corporation Council, last year, had even approved the estimate of Rs. 4.84 crore for the works that included installation of high mast lamps and police watch towers.

Status of petition

The new bids for the restoration works are likely to be finalised at a time when the judiciary too will step in. The Madras High Court, in January, granted an interim injunction restraining authorities from allowing anybody to carry on business and run shops or eateries on the entire stretch of the Marina beach here. A petition by the president of Gandhiji Consumer Forum was admitted and the matter is likely to be taken up for further hearing in April.

The petitioner, a lawyer, had said the Marina beach, which was the second longest beach in the world, was today “the dirtiest beach in the world. The beach was in a pathetic and shabby condition and foreign tourists were afraid of visiting it.”

According to the petitioner, several shops and vendors had been allowed to do business all over the beach, with shops in makeshift structures and merry-go-rounds finding a permanent place on the sands. As vendors on the Marina beach had failed to remove the unauthorised structures by the deadline set last July, the Chennai Corporation announced they were planning to take legal action.

The Corporation also made a public announcement last year asking the vendors to remove all the illegal structures, in order to facilitate the restoration of the beach.

But, so far, the vendors have failed to remove the shops. The civic body also generated a list of 1,212 vendors for rehabilitation in the new arrangement of shops on the 3.1-km-long beach, from Triumph of Labour Statue to Light House.

To address the problem of unhygienic food sold on the beach, the Food Safety and Drug Administration had conducted awareness programmes for vendors last month.

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