The district can be a serene haven, but it's an area that many people are already beginning to discover, writes K. Raju

Theni is cool and far from the madding crowd. If that tempts you to own a piece of land here for a weekend home or that hobby farm, now might well be the time, before it becomes unaffordable.

With minimum industrial development, low pollution and lots of greenery, Theni can be a serene haven, but it's an area that many people are already beginning to discover.

Film industry luminaries have bought large tracts of land and built palatial buildings and fabulous guest houses along the Western Ghats. A lot of the buying is also fuelled by the falling equity market, which has driven investors towards real estate in droves.

Developers in Usilampatti, Virudhunagar, Madurai and nearby areas are snapping up large tracts at steep rates for future commercial or residential projects. Upcoming projects are also driving prices. At Pottipuram, a remote village in Chinnamanur 18 km away from Bodi, land that was less than Rs 10,000 per acre is selling at Rs 5,000 a cent (100 cents make an acre).

This is because the Neutrino observatory project is coming up here.

In Theni town itself, the price of one cent is Rs.10-20 lakh. In some parts, it can go up to Rs.30 lakh a cent, as investors bet on Theni's rapid development once it gets district headquarter status.

In Bodi, prices reign at over Rs 17 lakh per cent, while in outlying areas it is roughly Rs.8 lakh.

In Periakulam town, price per cent is Rs.5-6 lakh, while on the outskirts it ranges between Rs.3 lakh and Rs.4 lakh. In villages around Periakulam, it's about Rs.1 lakh a cent. Prices in Kadamalai have shot up from roughly Rs.300 a cent five years ago to Rs.20,000 a cent.

To put a halt to speculative buying, the government has stepped in with rapid guideline value revisions, up to tenfold in some places.

With this, the number of registrations in Theni has come down from 200-250 a day to barely 20.

The hike in guideline values restricts the flow of black money and prevents frequent sale of land among realtors and speculators.

This is proving beneficial to genuine buyers who want the land for personal use and not just for profit.