THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Chalai Market -- the 400-year-old heritage market in the capital -- is in ruins. Almost every road in the market is in a dilapidated state and filled with filth, turning it hostile and unhygienic for the people. Water-logging is another issue plaguing the market.
According to traders, the market has lost its sheen ever since the pandemic outbreak and people are hesitant to visit it, leaving hundreds of shopkeepers at the receiving end of loss in business. The heritage street project launched back in 2018, which aims at revamping the market, continues to remain on paper.
Kerala Vyapari Vyavasayi Ekopana Samithi (KVVES) Chalai unit president V L Suresh said the market’s deplorable condition is adversely affecting their business. “Business has not been the same ever since the pandemic outbreak and traders are struggling even now. The market’s poor condition is turning away customers. Many traders have moved out and are doing business on the street and it’s more convenient for the customers. The number of people visiting the market has drastically come down,” said Suresh
He said the road network in and around the market is in a dilapidated condition and the situation worsens during every rain. “Waste crisis is another issue. People hesitate to come here because of the poor road condition and parking issues. It’s been three or four years since the authorities came up with the revamp project but nothing has happened on the ground. This market is part of our rich heritage. It’s unfortunate that it is facing such neglect,” said Suresh.
During the previous council’s tenure, the city corporation had awarded a Rs 35-lakh worth project to renovate the road network in Chalai ward. Ward councillor Simi Jyothish said the civic body had awarded the work but the project got scrapped even before the contractor launched the work.
“The majority of roads coming under my division have been included in the Smart Road project. We have enough funds to renovate these and make them motorable but we cannot as the roads have been handed over to Smart City Thiruvananthapuram Ltd (SCTL),” said Simi.
She said the civic body is making no efforts to execute the revamp project. “Waste management is a reeling issue in my division and the civic body is turning a blind eye to the issues even if we raise them umpteen times. There is no vacant land in Chalai ward for waste management. Currently, we are depending on private agencies for moving waste. Because of constant follow-ups, the civic body has decided to deploy the services of Green Army for segregation and waste management in my ward from December 15. I hope the crisis would get resolved after that,” added Simi.
Heritage street project in limbo
It’s been more than three years since the tourism department came up with a project to revamp Chalai Market on the lines of the iconic SM Street market in Kozhikode. However, apart from the launch, the project didn’t make much progress due to a lack of coordination among various departments. The department and Smart City Thiruvananthapuram Ltd have sanctioned Rs 26 crore for the project. The plan was to rejuvenate the old market with a slew of features to transform it into a tourism-cum-commercial destination. Habitat Technology Group, the agency executing the project, couldn’t do the work as planned owing to the pandemic outbreak.
The decision to integrate the project components with the Smart City Mission added to the delay. Phase I of the project includes renovation of the vegetable market, walkway construction, amenity centre and installation of a traditional gate each at East Fort and Killipalam. Architect G Shankar of Habitat Technology Group said the project is in limbo and they would be able to launch it only after the completion of the road works by SCTL. Apart from renovating the vegetable market, which is currently lying unused, the project hasn’t made any progress. “Recently, we got a letter from the tourism department demanding an explanation for the non-completion of the project.
We cannot execute the project without support from the civic body and other departments. We can renovate the fish market only if the traders are moved from there. Without the support of the authorities, we cannot go ahead,” said Shankar. Ward councillor Simi Jyothish said the heritage project was revised to link it with the Smart City Mission project for constructing a smart street in the market connecting the three-kilometre-long road from East Fort to Killipalam.