CHENNAI: Hundreds of morning walkers who usually visit the ‘manikoondu’ park on Strahans Road at Pattalam were shocked on Wednesday – they found (or not) the green stretch that spanned for nearly 2 kilometers missing overnight. Instead, the same place looked like a barren land with visible marks of ravage left by bulldozers. The only hint of the park still left behind is the historic clock tower that stands tall on the roadsides.
“It was here I sat and listened to the speech by MGR, a few years before he passed away,” says S Premalatha. Like her, for many of the local residents the demolition of the park, with which they have much emotional connect, is like a personal disaster that has struck their neighbourhood.
Despite strong opposition by the residents, the Corporation, along with police assistance, demolished the park late on Tuesday night. The residents, who protested against the move, were arrested and released the next day. The residents say the reason for the demolition of the park was to make a pathway to the newly constructed multi-storey apartment adjacent to it.
“The park and the historic tower clock are being demolished for vehicle movement to the new multi-crore building coming up adjacent to it. One of the entrances to the building is placed next to the park,” says Choolai Nehru, an old-timer in the neighbourhood.
It is clear, he alleges, that the park is a hindrance to entering the building and hence the officials colluded with the builder and demolished the park.
However, the Corporation officials say the park was demolished to widen the road. “It was an unused park, so we are widening the road (by demolishing the park) as per the proposals. It is not because of the residential project that’s coming up in the area. However, the tower clock and the trees will not be disturbed,” said M Pugalzhendi, chief engineer (general), of the Corporation.
What has hurt the local residents is the personal connect and the historical significance of the park.
“I used to play in the park as a small girl with my brothers and sisters, who are now settled abroad. There are many memories associated with the park,” says an emotional Premalatha, who like many of the local residents are yet to overcome the shock of the “missing park”.
“Senior citizens and youngsters throng the park in the morning. The park that stretched over 2km land was a peaceful place,” says E Dilli Babu, another a long time resident.
While Corporation officials say they have allocated an alternative land to build a new park clear the clock, the locals still not convinced about the reason for demolishing a park of historic significance, as they see the motive of a private builder.
Park name Selvapathy Chettiar park
In memory of Selvapathy Chettiar, one of the founders of Madras Labour Union in Binny Mills
Opened on August 4,1948
Spread across 2 km along Strahans Road.
Famous for Public speeches made by many erstwhile political leaders.
Renewed in 2004