The prolonged face-off between the District Tourism Promotion Council (DTPC) and the Ports Department over the multi-crore South Beach beautification project seems to have finally found a solution.

The project, which seeks to convert over two acres of the prime South Beach area into a tourist hotspot, became a virtual non-starter when the Ports Department refused to release land owned by it.

However, work on the project, scheduled to be implemented over two phases by the Harbour Engineering Department, would begin soon after the Lok Sabha elections, DTPC secretary P.G. Rajeev said on Thursday.

“The Harbour Engineering Department will start the first phase of the work soon. In the first phase, we will avoid the land owned by the Ports Department and work our way around it,” Mr. Rajeev said.

Such a decision was taken because a consensus with the Ports Department may take time, and thus further delay the launch of the first phase, he said.

A recent high-level meeting at the State capital on the project mooted the idea of a joint inspection of the area by the DTPC and port officials to amicably settle the land issue.

The Ports Department said it had very little land left in the district and would not want to let go of this prized estate along the city’s coastline without getting alternative land in return.

It said that by giving away the land on the South Beach for beautification, the department, and eventually the State government, would lose revenue in the form of monthly rent from a lorry-parking site in the area.

‘Not too happy’

Senior officials had earlier alleged that they were not too encouraged by the past record of the Tourism Department in developing the beach.

They pointed to how past tourism projects on the beach were not great examples to go by. Again, they had argued how the South Beach land, previously handed out for public facilities, had been poorly maintained. One of them was the lorry-parking site opposite the road to Valiyangadi, the city’s oldest wholesale market.

“As of now, we are not touching the lorry site and other port land. The technicalities on these properties will probably be decided in the second phase of the project,” Mr. Rajeev said.

The project proposal text says the DTPC launched the initiative as it felt the South Beach area is too rough or ‘undeveloped’ for the tastes of weekend beach-goers.

The project’s first phase is expected to cost Rs.3.85 crore. Under this, a promenade, seating plazas, amphitheatre, mini high-mast lights, pavilions, play areas, soft landscaping, a drinking water point, and waste bins will be in place.

The second phase will cost Rs.5 crore and is more complicated. In this phase, the land takeover will mean displacing an entire colony of 36 BPL families and small businesses located all along the length of South Beach Road.

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