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(ARCHIVE) Vol. XXI No. 8, August 1-15, 2011
What is happening at the Adyar Poonga?
(By A Special Correspondent)

The Adyar Poonga was a project that remained in the limelight from almost start to finish. Begun as a response to public interest litigations demanding the protection of the Adyar Creek, the park was created at a cost of Rs. 19 crore, spent over three years. It was to have a high profile inauguration which became a subdued one for political reasons. Since then, despite an encouraging response with footfalls exceeding 4000 in two months, it would appear that the Government, especially with a change in regime, has lost interest in the project. Which would indeed be a pity, if true.

A view of the Adyar Poonga with its plentiful signage.

To recap, the uncontrolled exploitation of the area had been challenged by the Citizen, consumer and civil Action Group (CAG) in the court during the building of the Ambedkar Memorial and, in 2000, the High Court had directed the State Government to preserve the wetlands. On December 22, 2003 the State Government handed over 58 acres of the area to the city’s Corporation to develop it into an eco park modelled on Tezozomac of Mexico. The budget for creating the park, Rs.60 crore, was passed in 2005 and a special purpose vehicle (SPV), Adyar Creek Eco Park Limited, was set up to harness and channel the funds for development. An Adyar Creek Trust was set up with the Chief Secretary as the Chairman and Secretaries of Highways, Forests, Fisheries, Municipal Administration & Water Supply, and Finance as members. Strangely enough, the CAG was never made part of the body.

Environmentalists subsequently suggested the handing over of the entire 350 acres of the Creek for protection and also questioned as to how only 58 acres of it could be preserved without access to the waters of the estuary which was the lifeline of the area and which would be cut off with the proposed development.

The State Government filed a writ petition before the Court requesting permission to proceed with the work. It stated that the objective of the Poonga Trust was to restore the wetland in the Adyar Estuary area, comprising 58 acres, and to create an ecologically sensitive zone nurturing the flora and fauna peculiar to the locality with human interface. It also claimed that objections and suggestions received from several stakeholders including NGOs like Exnora International and the CAG were considered. Interestingly, the Government stuck to its plan of restoring only 58 acres and not the entire area, something which environmentalists claim will be unsustainable.

When almost completed, the park, which till then had been referred to as the Adyar Poonga, was renamed Tholkappiya Poonga. The inauguration was to be attended by the Prime Minister, who chose to stay away. The Chief Minister then declared the park open in January. Work, however, continued till March and it was only then that the park was opened to the public. Informed sources have it that the Government lost interest in the park owing to elections and there are stories doing the rounds of suppliers’ bills remaining unpaid (a common enough Government practice). A change of Government has not helped and in May it was decided that only groups of students would be allowed into the park. While this is in keeping with the original intent of creating an information facility for students at the park, what is surprising is that it should be out of bounds for everyone else.

In the meantime, lack of maintenance is already showing up. The wings of an eagle statuette came crashing down following high speed winds one evening in May and are yet to be put back. It is also not clear what will be done with the rest of the Rs.60 crore that is yet to be spent. Certainly there is no sign of any activity on the site as of now.

The project was rather grandly declared to be a wetland restoration exercise when it began. It is worth pointing out that the park is in no way connected to the estuary and, therefore, the river to qualify as wetland restoration. But as a piece of open space put to environmentally friendly use it is exemplary and it will be tragic if it is neglected owing to considerations political or otherwise.

In this issue

What is happening at the Adyar Poonga?
Is the beat constable feasible any longer?
The missing Madras bulwark
The subjugation of Kaliya
Bharata Natyam
Other stories

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Short 'N' Snappy
Our Readers Write
Quizzin' with Ram'nan
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