June 15, 2013

Padur Lake, Marina Beach: Is the Community in?

If you travel down Rajiv Gandhi Salai, still known as OMR or Old Mahabalipuram Road you will come across a few scenic places.

Places which have survived the development of IT parks and gated community projects.

One such place is in Padur, once a sleepy village. Padur's biggest natural asset is a lake.

A decade ago, people had bought two or three ground plots on land fronting this lake for as little as 20 thousand rupees.

Those who were prospecting for land here would have to get off the OMR, drive through the small village and land up at the open grounds, once fields. A college had just begun to come up. That was it.

Today, the village is all but gone and on the waterfront are large houses you can see from as far as the East Coast Road side.

Padur Lake has been facing a slow death. Encroachers have come in. People answer nature's calls. It is a dumpyard for locally generated garbage and a washing space for hired lorries.

Of late, I have been reading a bit about the lake at a blog that my friend G V Krishnan publishes. It is titled 'OMR Resident',

Krishnan, who last worked for the Times of India is spending his retired years furiously blogging on local news and issues of his neighbourhood - the far end of OMR.

Of late, Krishnan and his neighbours have been walking on the lakeside and have appreciated its value for a growing neighbourhood. They have also realised that this water body is getting polluted because it now serves as an open air toilet for a huge number of migrant workers. These people work on the massive buildings on the OMR and they do not have proper civic facilities.

Addressing such issues much before romaticising about a wonderful lake is now on the minds of Krishnan and the OMR Greens, as the group is called.

One small step that they intend to take is to sensitise the community in apartments to the existence of the lake and the need to conserve it. For, the lake belongs to all.

Who does the Marina Beach belong to?

Touted the second longest beach in the world, it seems to be everybody's beach and nobody's too!

It needed a man to go to the High Court here to get the Chennai Corporation, the city's civic body to address the issue of rampant hawkerisation of this beach.

Thousands of hawkers eke their living on this beach. They sell ice cream and fried fish, chips and corn, bajjis and sundal. Hawkers are an essential part of an open space like the Marina.

But it is shocking to see that neither the state nor the civic body addresses the issue of orderly hawking.

Retiling the pavements and planting hghmast lamps is easy. Maintaining the sands and the waterfront is tough. Would getting the beachgoers involved help?

The walkers and volleyball players, the fisherfolk and hawkers and the legions of beach cricket players. Can each be given a stake in the Marina's life?

This is the time to get the community involved. If the hawker zones come up, can we keep the waste and the plastic just there? Can we fine those who dump bottles in the sand and throw plastic sachets in the water?

 (G V Krishnan's blog is at - www.omrresident.blogspot.in)

Listen to the audio post here

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