The dust has hardly settled on previous regime’s prolonged so-called beautification drive at the Marina. The present administration has decided that it can do one better and has announced yet another facelift, at a cost of Rs. 4.84 crore. At a time when the city is facing great challenges on infrastructure, civic hygiene and public health, such cosmetic changes to what is already a well-tended place are most unnecessary. It is clearly indicative of a Corporation that is not thinking out-of-the box.
On the anvil are several new measures none of which can be termed as civic amenities. A giant chessboard for children (who will move the pieces?), a fountain that can be operated with a clap of hands, a wave-patterned enclosure for the bus terminal at the Anna Square and granite slabs next to each statue, giving a brief history of the person commemorated. The only commendable steps are the raising of the historic pillars on the western side of the road, all of which have sunk below the ground, and a move to relocate the shops on the beachfront. Another noteworthy move is the plan to clean the sand.
The previous regime had initiated and completed a Rs. 25 crore beautification project all along the 3-km stretch of the Marina. It had brought in viewing galleries, walkways and fountains. After a high-profile inauguration, the new facilities were left with no proper maintenance. Litter abounded the new granite walkways and the fountains, which are hardly appropriate for a water-starved city, did not always work. A commendable addition was the public convenience, but that too now suffers from indifferent maintenance.
That brings us to another issue. The Corporation, no matter which political party is in power, is mostly interested in new projects that involve capital expenditure. These are -announced with fanfare and when completed they also have lavish inaugurations. But the continued maintenance of these facilities is never thought of. The consequence is that they become useless and are then condemned. A new capital project is then envisaged and the chain continues. It is rather surprising that a civic body that invariably claims to be short of resources for routine maintenance is always able to have funds for capital expenses.
Throughout the city, we have glaring instances of poor upkeep. Pot-holed roads, unusable footpaths, trees that need pruning, lights that don’t work, drains that overflow and litter that keeps accumulating. Why is money not being spent on these aspects? Is it because routine maintenance work does not involve laying foundation stones, commemorative plaques and photo opportunities?
Lastly, how many more beautifications does the Marina need? It has a good pedestrian walkway, it has statuary neatly laid out, there is regulated parking, there is public seating and there are conveniences. What more does a public space need? Can we in anyway improve what is already a beautiful handiwork of nature? And is Chennai rather like the fabled stag which focussed only on its antlers and neglected its legs, making too much of a fuss over the beach to the neglect of other things?