The Tourism Department is working towards giving the Beach Road in Pondicherry a new look. DEEPA H RAMAKRISHNAN reports

It is sometime in the 1800s and a ship has just landed carrying goods such as liquor and luxury items to Pondicherry. Country vessels bring the goods to the shore, to the port office, the only building on the seashore, all the other buildings on that road are warehouses meant for storing goods. The long iron pier spanning a distance of 192 meters was inaugurated on August 15, 1866. Coming back to the present, what remains of that road now is the old port office - the Le Café building and remnants of the pier. From a road that used be a mere passageway to the sea front, the port and warehouses, today's Goubert Avenue has metamorphosed to the pride of Pondicherry. It is one of the major tourist attractions - this, despite the fact that we don't have a sandy beach. Also for locals, it offers respite from the heat and is a lovely place to walk in the evenings. If the plans of the Tourism Department take off, the road could soon become a haven for pedestrians and will wear a new look. The entire one-km stretch will be totally revamped. As per the plan suggested by INTACH (Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage), granite stones would be laid on the side walk, the road would have inter-locking pavers (cement bricks like in the Ashram area) and coconut palms to provide a picturesque view. The Tourism Minister Malladi Krishna Rao recently paid a visit to the on-going tourism promotion project sites including the Bharathi Park revitalisation project. He also evinced interest in providing a face-lift to the Beach Road. Rao said, "We are planning a complete makeover of the area. The area in between the Park and the Gandhi thidal would house a permanent shopping complex so that exhibitions can be organised. The beach side would have clean sand for people to walk on. We will be lighting up buildings in the area and the Gandhi statue. We are waiting for the local body elections to be completed to start work on all these. We also want the Botanical Garden to be spruced up. We will be consulting the Agriculture Minister on it". Outlining the department's plans, he said, "By the end of 2007, we want Pondicherry to have several tourist attractions. For instance, the department is revamping the beaches in Mahe, Yanam and Karaikal. Weekend programmes and laser shows will be organised on the Pondicherry beach."The Tourism Secretary A. Anabarasu said that the department was thinking of making the road - from the Beach to the Botanical Garden - more pedestrian-friendly. "We are reviewing all the tourism schemes and other projects including the arts and crafts village, Chunnambar resort, proposed golf course, Thirunallar development and airports in Pondicherry and Karaikal. We will also be initiating a `keep the city clean' campaign and would be aesthetically lighting up heritage buildings such that their character stands out. We also want to light up all the statues, the PWD has already started work on it." After the project, estimated to cost Rs. 4.25 Crore, is completed, the Beach Road will have a totally new look. With benches and lampposts in cast iron it will be an ideal place for people to relax or go for long walks.The Le Café building would also be renovated. INTACH co-convenor and architect Ajit Koujalgi said, "By the end of the project, the Beach Road would resemble a promenade. The area near Nehru statue will have a European style plaza. Arrangements will be made to hold cultural programmes in the evenings near the Gandhi Thidal. It's time to add new facilities while preserving the original charm. Changes need to be made in the city not just for tourists but also for the people who live here. We are keen to work with the Government, especially the Tourism Department, in their efforts to improve the face of Pondicherry."