Blessed with beautiful beaches, archaeological sites, beach resorts and well-connected roads, Mamallapuram is an apt location for development, and would help decongest the city, experts at a panel discussion First stop: Mamallapuram said on Thursday.
The event, which marks the launch of the series Chennai Unlimited, was presented by G Square and powered by The Hindu.
Hotelier, entrepreneur and a long-time resident of Mamallapuram J. Sethuraman said after the Chinese Premier’s visit, Mamallapuram became “busy” and “it is time we start planning for it. It is our responsibility to pass on this heritage to the next generation. Any development in and around Mamallapuram should be done keeping the elements of heritage and sustainability in mind.”
Talking about the history of the town that gets lakhs of tourists every year, Mr. Sethuraman said he had seen the town grow from a population of just 250 to 12,000. It was a small hippie town in the 1970s and 80s. “In the 90s, we saw a lot of inbound tourists. Now, it is the gateway of tourism in Tamil Nadu. Even if tourists land in Chennai, they start their sightseeing from Mamallapuram,” he said.
Retired professor of Urban Engineering, Anna University, K.P. Subramanian said that with the State government realising the importance of Mamallapuram, the town and its surrounding areas had two planning areas and planning authorities. In an effort to decongest the city, the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) had proposed six new towns and one among those is Mamallapuram.
“The government is also in the process of developing a 15-minute city, where commuting would be minimal. . This integrated township model will have mixed land uses, have basic, health and education infrastructure, and create housing and economic opportunities. ...While Mamallapuram can be the next Sholinganallur in terms of economic development, one important aspect that policy-makers must keep in mind while bringing in developments is that the locals should not be alienated,” Mr. Subramanian said.
Former Chief Engineer (Highways) and transportation expert M.S. Srinivasan said the town was close to his heart. “We should not spoil the heritage town by unplanned construction. It has remained a favourite tourism destination as it retains its charm.... One can see several monuments, including the Light House from the East Coast Road,” he said. The town is well-connected by roads, Mr. Srinivasan said, adding that when the ECR was formed, reduction of travel time was a major factor considered by the Asian Development Bank. “It is only a question of time that the area to the west of the town, including Thirukazhukundram, becomes a major hub. Proper planning is required for this. The Peripheral Road, connecting Ennore in the north, is being laid from Poonjeri near Mamallapuram.... An extension of the Metro Rail line up to Mamallapuram will help improve connectivity,” Mr. Srinivasan said.
Architect and transport planner Mark Selvaraj, who moderated the session, said for many, Mamallapuram meant pristine beaches, good food, archaeology and tourists. However, as the city’s boundaries expand, the town and its surroundings, including Poonjeri, become attractive locations for investments. “We need to see how this can be done without disturbing the core town. We must understand that any development will only improve the economy in the area.”
Chief Revenue Officer of The Hindu Group Suresh Balakrishna said Mamallapuram was only an hour and a half away from Chennai. For people in places like Mumbai, it was the norm while commuting for work. Speaking about set of events, including marathons and movie screenings organised as part of the Made of Chennai month that celebrates the city, he expressed happiness that the event was being launched now. The city was growing and the people were becoming more prosperous, looking for opportunities to invest. During the series, various aspects of infrastructure would be discussed and the first one – on Mamallapuram – would set the tone for the same, he added.