Chennai

Elliot’s Beach gets a new look

Around 2010, Elliot’s beach attracted a big wave of “improvement.” A billboard on the beach gym showed a fairyland of upcoming features: an open theatre, 15-feet-wide lawns on the sand, gazebos, children’s play area, a path to the waterline for wheelchair-users.

“No!” protested a group called Save Chennai Beaches. “CRZ rules don’t allow permanent structures on the beach; a path across the sand will be just “sand” the next morning; play equipment would rust in salty-breeze; a theatre would reduce beach-space and increase noise. And, lawns? In a waterless city? The “beach betterment” programme was shelved.

After a few years of sporadic efforts at beautification – like the makeover of Schmidt memorial -- the beach is now getting a major revamp. The jogging path has been widened and laid with good anti-skid tiles; granite partitions guard the two paths, garden umbrellas dot the stretch and trees and flower beds decorate the roadside wall. Water kiosks and a first-aid station have sprung on the sand, as have children’s play equipment. Lights and information boards surround Schmidt’s memorial, and security-men stop vandals itching to write on its walls. Sand-cleaning machines whirr around and litter-bins are everywhere. Bessie beach wears a new look. For those using walkers or wheelchairs, the tiled area seems to be a boon.

“The sandy jogging track made no sense,” said Jehan Dorab, a wheelchair-user. It got dirty with dog excreta, and was never cleaned, he said.

“The new pavement is a blessing. It’s larger and more welcoming. The granite ramps are disabled-friendly. It is definitely easier for us to navigate up and down this new track.”

He has a request for the Deputy Commissioner (Works), Greater Chennai Corporation.

“Please see that this well-paved area is not taken over by vendors and bikes. Right now we are enjoying ourselves. We sit around to chat. Granite is durable, so we need to prevent theft.”

“Well-paved” is a common description for the new promenade. “Well-done!” said V. Pazhanipandi, Retd. General Manager, Heavy Vehicles Factory, Avadi. “My walker gets a good grip on the tiles making me feel safe to move. Please tell the authorities to put a cap on the number of vendors.” A group of elderly regulars gave a big thumbs-up to the tiles and border walls, promising to keep an eye on vandals. Lakshmi Sriram cannot thank the city corporation enough, as she takes her walk supported by friends on either side. “I don’t feel guilty of blocking others,” she said.

“Perfect!” said Vidhya Ragavan, a fitness enthusiast. “Can walk comfortably in slippers, and without fear of being jostled. The umbrellas give the place a picnic-spot look. The improvements have been done aesthetically.”

Her nod also goes for the water kiosks, first-aid centre, the greening. “The beach now caters to all needs, families feel safe here.”

At 3:30pm on March 8, I found groups of young people chatting in the shade of the umbrellas. What triggered the beautification move? This beach draws, apart from the local residents, casual visitors and tourists to the Schmidt memorial,” said M. Govinda Rao, DC (Works).

“We received many representations for sprucing up the beach and the memorial.”

Under the Swadesh Darshan scheme, GCC ticked the boxes for footpath, landscaping, dedicated beach-cleaning machines, and bins for collecting litter. Potable-water kiosks would do away with water sachets. Schmidt memorial would get face-lifting and security. “It has been done after a lot of thought and consultations. We know the public will welcome the improvements.”

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Printable version | May 7, 2021 7:53:04 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/elliots-beach-gets-a-new-look/article26543304.ece

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