Planned development is needed to preserve Mamallapuram’s heritage, say panellists

Powered by The Hindu and presented by the G Square Group, it is the second one in a series of discussions focusing on the coastal town’s infrastructure landscape

September 20, 2023 10:19 pm | Updated 11:00 pm IST - CHENNAI

Panellists speaking at the discussion organised in Chennai on Wednesday.

Panellists speaking at the discussion organised in Chennai on Wednesday. | Photo Credit: M. SRINATH

Experts stressed the need for planned development of Mamallapuram and its surroundings to ensure the preservation of its heritage at a panel discussion on ‘Mamallapuram: On the Fast Track to Development’ held here on Wednesday. Powered by The Hindu and presented by the G Square Group, it is the second one in a series of discussions focusing on the coastal town’s infrastructure landscape.

Sanjay Chugh, city head and director of Anarock Property Consultants Pvt. Ltd., Chennai, who opened the discussion said several major events over the past two years had thrust the coastal town into the spotlight. It was a place with a lot of historic importance, and with controlled development, it could become like Mumbai’s Juhu, he said.

Mr. Chugh explained that some 30-40 years ago Juhu, which like Mamallapuram is away from the city, was developed and even today it retained its calm and quiet and was a nice place to live in. “A lot of people who moved to East Coast Road (ECR) during the COVID-19 pandemic do not want to move back since there is more privacy and space, and the quality of life is much better,” he said.

Jerry Kingsley, India head of strategic consulting value and risk advisory, City Lead Capital Markets, Chennai, said the city was growing towards the south. Rajiv Gandhi Salai or Old Mahabalipuram Road (OMR) had a major share of office space, and this means a lot of white collar employees are looking for a second home. Mamallapuram is by the sea and only 40 km from the city, with ECR being widened and Metro Rail being developed till Siruseri, this zone is likely to witness investments in the next five to 10 years, he added.

Mr. Kingsley said the stretch was a very scenic one and was something that other places in the country do not have. With vast availability of land, there was a lot of interest for development, and it was an apt destination for facilities like golf courses and theme parks and destination related investments, he explained.

V. Baskaran, former Indian hockey team captain, underscored the need for the development of sports infrastructure on a grand scale. “If anybody is investing at Mamallapuram, they should ensure 50% of it goes towards sports facilities. It will help us create a healthy future generation,” he said.

The Padma Shri awardee said sporting activities in the sea should also be encouraged. Countries such as Brazil and Spain had spent huge amounts on creating sports infrastructure, he said, adding that a large space to celebrate the victory of a team should also be created. “It encourages team spirit. In England, people celebrate the victory of a club for a week. Here, celebrations happen for an hour,” Mr. Baskaran added.

Shylaja Chetlur, actor and founder, Cinema Rendezvous, said it was important for planners to develop the area after researching it from all angles. They should ensure that the heritage aspects of the town should not be disturbed in any manner. Similarly, the local habitations should be integrated with new developments, she said.

Ms. Chetlur said alongside developing the surroundings, facilities like washrooms, parking spaces and well-trained guides should be made available in the heritage town. The government should keep in mind that art had become a diversion for many, especially those in the IT industry, and also develop some facilities to encourage such activities.

Earlier, Thirupurasundari Sevvel, architect planner and conservation professional, the moderator who set the tone for the discussion, said when infrastructure came up in such a culturally sensitive area, developers and buyers should keep that as a key to development. She said to understand the heritage structures and the town, one should visit it in the rain and see how the land lies and behaves.

In his welcome address, S. Sundaresan, Head, Advertising-South, The Hindu Group, said this series about Mamallapuram aimed to celebrate the numerous growth opportunities in the area. This followed, the success of the Coimbatore Unlimited series that focused on L&T Bypass.

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