Chennai

Work on accessible pathway in Marina Beach to start soon

File Photo of the pathway

File Photo of the pathway

“The work on creating an inclusive pathway to the Marina Beach was challenging as the project is without a precedent.”

Those are the words of Vidhya Mohankumar, founder and principal, Urban Design Collective, the consultant engaged by Greater Chennai Corporation for implementing the project.

Though certain beaches in India are equipped with disabled-friendly infrastructure, the barrier-free permanent pathway being planned on the Marina sands would be the first of its kind.

Taking lessons from similar initiatives in from western countries was also not an option one could pursue.

Vidhya says the Marina is hugely unique. In fact, no two beaches are the same. “The currents in the ocean, geography, latitude and longitude and the seasonal shifting of the sands have to be considered while planning a project of this kind. So, we cannot do something based on what some other country did with a beach. In some nations, the pathway extends up to the water, but in such beaches, the tidal actions could be low. So, you could have a wooden structure leading to the water when the shore is flat. At Marina, from the high tide line there is a steep drop. Besides, the tidal movement undergoes variations throughout the year — sometimes, it will be very steep and sometimes gradual,” says Vidhya.

Getting the CRZ (coastal regulation zone) norms cleared was another challenge.

“There was a lot of hesitation from the authorities to get the clearance as this is being tried out for the first time, so a lot of homework had to be done. CRZ regulations said you cannot build anything permanent and certain materials were prohibited,” says Vidhya.

Timber was the most suitable choice. While sourcing it, the consultant considered their availability locally, and endurance capacity. Cost was another consideration: some materials had to be changed following cost analysis.

“In February 2021, we had a contractor do a prototype on the beach free of cost for one metre to check for its stability,” says Vidhya.

The structure in timber will extend to 225 metres and end on the high tide line.

“Our understanding is that the tender being called is only to lay the pathway where we offered advice,” she says.

Besides, Urban Design Collective had given a comprehensive design, considering accessibility in various aspects, which included changes to the service road so that it connects from the bus stop to the Namma Chennai selfie point, and accessible toilets and parking area. None of the afore-mentioned features are being currently introduced. “A few other suggestions that we offered have been removed with the assurance that they would be taken up separately,” says Vidhya.

Beyond the high tide line, beach wheelchairs have to be operated to ensure access.

Once the pathway is up, the next big task would be to maintain the structure, which includes ensuring protection against vandalism.


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Printable version | May 21, 2022 10:44:13 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/work-on-accessible-pathway-in-marina-beach-to-start-soon/article65438822.ece