Newspapers recently carried reports of a State Minister going walkabout to inspect unfinished civic projects. It is understood that the local population in attendance gave him an earful on the tardy progress, if it could be termed that. We, on the other hand, would like to commend the Minister in his having set out to gather these facts for himself. And, at the same time, we would like to add a list of our own, highlighting the lack of progress on various projects concerning heritage, built and natural.
The Adyar Poonga progressed till the end of 2010. What happened after that is a mystery. This project, touted as one that would save the Adyar Creek, is now very much on the backburner. The general public is not allowed inside and entry is only for teams of schoolchildren, the logic behind such a decision being unknown. It is worth pondering over how many schoolchildren visit the place now. Last heard, the consultant who worked on the project was owed money.
The Pallikaranai Marsh is another story which appears never ending. Around 780 acres were declared as reserve forest in 2007. Since then the process of handing over the land to the Forest Department has taken forever. It is reliably learnt that a part was handed over early this year and a protective wall is being constructed. A proposal for a comprehensive restoration, submitted by an NGO to the Central Government, is hanging fire and, in the meanwhile, the city Corporation continues dumping garbage into the marsh.
What happened to the project to make Buckingham Canal navigable once more? True, the Union Minister who announced this in 2008 is no longer in power, but surely a policy decision, and one for which over Rs. 450 crore was allotted, has to be implemented? We wonder where it is held up.
Closer home, we are concerned about what the fate of the National Gallery within the Egmore Museum Complex will be. The Museum Theatre and the Connemara Public Library have been restored leaving only the National Gallery decrepit. But apart from posting signs all around it that it is in a weakened state, there has been no progress for over five years. The compound wall of the complex has, however, been renovated not once, but twice in the interim. What is holding up allocation of funds for restoring the Gallery? Last heard, its dome had developed a crack from side to side and was endangered.
On the same note, what is happening to the Chepauk Palace restoration? The unclear mandate of restoration notwithstanding, last heard was that the Government had invited bids for the restoration process from experts in the field. That was more than six months ago. Since then, there has been no clear information on whether any bids were received at all and, if so, what their status of evaluation is. The building continues to languish as a burnt-out shell.
To top it all, what is the status of the Heritage Commission Bill? Announced in May, it is yet to be legislated on, notified and made into law. All kinds of diverse opinions are being expressed about its fate, none of them too encouraging.
And, so, there matters rest. It is to be hoped that the enthusiasm with which the Minister set out to inspect civic projects will soon percolate to other ministries, thereby making them move faster on all these projects that are in suspended animation.