Boulevard: a paradise lost to real estate boom

Fading charm: Many heritage buildings in Boulevard have been converted into commercial spaces housing boutiques and restaurants. Some old buildings have made way for high-rise structures.

Fading charm: Many heritage buildings in Boulevard have been converted into commercial spaces housing boutiques and restaurants. Some old buildings have made way for high-rise structures.   | Photo Credit: T_Singaravelou

What was once a quiet and peaceful residential area has transformed into a bustling commercial hub

The fast-changing character of Boulevard is taking a toll on the civic infrastructure.

The once quiet locality has become a commercial hub with its heritage residential properties making way for flats, guest houses, restaurants and boutiques, putting pressure on the limited infrastructure in the area. The sewer lines are under strain and the power network has reached its capacity.

Last year, the Town and Country Planning Department had given permission for 15 buildings, including six apartments and seven commercial structures.

“Except for a few buildings, there was no high-rise building until recently. Now, high-rise buildings are the norm rather than an exception, hitting the traditional beauty of Boulevard,” says S. Nadarajan, a resident of Ambalathadayar Madam Street.

Population explosion

According to him, the houses in Boulevard used to have distinct features, one of which was a well. “The character of the area has changed for the worse. Commercial outlook has come to reign supreme and there is absence of residential zones in Puducherry,” he says.

The Boulevard was planned to house around 50,000 people, said Probir Banerjee, president of PondyCan. Now, the 2.2 sq. km. area that houses the French and Tamil quarters has two lakh people.

Can this place hold such a huge population? “Certainly not. The old sewer lines and power network cannot withstand the pressure,” he says.

For example, Mr. Banerjee says, the Public Works Department, in the last few months, has been trying to plug a leak in the sewer line passing through Kamatchi Amman and Ginjee Salai junction. Any new power connection in Boulevard has to be drawn from faraway distribution network as the existing system had reached its full capacity.

According to Ramesh, a resident of Boulevard, with guest houses, hotels and commercial establishments coming up, life has become difficult for the locals. Fed up with not being able to take a walk on the streets during the weekends because of the dense traffic, he says, “it should be made a non-motorised zone during the day.”

An eyesore

The filth on the streets on the weekends has become a concern for the residents. “We can see empty liquor bottles and food packets strewn all over. We have an excellent garbage management system in Boulevard but the crowd that throng the area is so much that the conservancy workers are not able to keep pace,” Mr. Ramesh says.

The area has changed from a “simple and peaceful” one to that of a congested town bustling with commercial activity, says J. Babu, a trader.

“In the process, it has lost its charm. None of the old-timers will appreciate the ongoing change in its character. I am not against development but at what and whose cost,” he says.

The only way to preserve its pristine glory is to limit large-scale construction activity for commercial purpose, says Mr. Banerjee.

The government should develop more tourism spots so that people visiting the town have other venues rather than limiting their movement in Boulevard.

“The weekends are just a war zone. Residents in the area prefer to be indoor on weekends as it will be teeming with people. Sometimes people will not be able to park their vehicles outside due to tourists flow,” Mr. Banerjee says.

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Printable version | Jun 2, 2020 12:57:08 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/puducherry/boulevard-a-paradise-lost-to-real-estate-boom/article27153444.ece

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