Marina Beach

Coordinates: 13°03′15″N 80°17′01″E / 13.05418°N 80.28368°E / 13.05418; 80.28368

Marina Beach along Kamarajar Salai

Marina Beach (Tamil: மெரினா கடற்கரை) is a beach in the city of Chennai (Madras), India, along the Bay of Bengal, part of the Indian Ocean. The beach runs from near Fort St. George in the north to Besant Nagar in the south, a distance of 12 km (7.5 mi),[1] making it the longest urban beach in the country[2] and the world's second longest.[3][4] The Marina is primarily sandy, unlike the short, rocky formations that make up the Juhu Beach in Mumbai. The width of the beach at the widest stretch is 437 m (1,434 ft). Bathing and swimming at the Marina Beach can be dangerous as the undercurrent is very turbulent and are legally prohibited. It is the most crowded beach in the country and attracts about 30,000 visitors a day during weekdays[5] and 50,000 visitors a day during the weekends and on holidays.[6][7][8] During summer months, about 15,000 to 20,000 people visit the beach daily.[9] In 2010, 18 per cent of the 5,000 respondents interviewed by the Tripadvisor Survey panned the beach as being dirty.[10]

Contents

History

The Beach Promenade in 1913

Before the Madras harbour was built, the Marina beach was just a strip of mud, teeming with mudskippers. The beach washed up close to the present day road for a long time until the harbor was built in 1881. Mountstuart Elphinstone Grant Duff, the governor of Madras from 1881 to 1886, who was captivated by the beach on an earlier visit to the city,[11][12] conceived and built the promenade along the beach in 1884 by extensively modifying and layering with soft sand. Grant Duff christened it the Madras Marina,[11] on which he explains in a letter:

We have greatly benefitted Madras by turning the rather dismal beach of five years ago into one of the most beautiful promenades in the world. From old Sicilian recollections, I gave in 1884 to our new creation the name of Marina; and I was not a little amused when walking there last winter with the Italian General Saletta, he suddenly said to me 'On se dirai a Palerme'.[12]

Ever since the harbour was built, the area south of the port has accreted significantly, forming the present day's beach mainly due to the presence of wave breakers laid for the construction of the harbour, although the coast in the northern region has undergone severe erosion.[13] Eventually, the north-drifting current widened the beach to its present extent. The beach was formed as a result of arresting the littoral drift by the port's breakwater.[14][15] The area of the beach is increasing 40 sq m every year due to the progradation.[3]

The Marina used to be famed for its pristine beauty, jolly ambiance, and rich ecosystems[citation needed]. However, since the middle of the 20th century, the beach and water have become polluted.[16] Proliferation of plastic bags, human waste, and other pollutants have rendered many parts of the beach unusable. In recent years, many voluntary organizations have taken up the task of cleaning up the Marina and protecting the ecosystem. Particular efforts include protection of Olive Ridley turtle nests along the Neelankarai section of the beach. Meiofaunal composition at the Marina Beach chiefly includes turbellarians, nematodes, polychaetes, oligochaetes, and harpacticoids.[17] Species of gastrotrichs are also found in the region.

In New India, the newspaper that was run by Annie Besant, the Irish theosophist and Home Rule advocate, the beauty of Marina Beach was described back in 1914. On 6 October 1914, Anne Besant wrote,[18]

One of the chief attractions of Madras is undeniably its Marina. There is nothing in all of India to match this long and pleasantest of promenades that runs by the side of the foam-crested surf from the southern extremity of the Fort to Santhome. The Marina is certainly a cap of this 'city of magnificent distances'. An old promenade, popularly known as 'Cupid's Bow' south of the fort, now hides her head in shame besides her statelier and more favoured sister.

She also added that Madras[18]

... in keeping with her dignity as a progressive city with a population of over half a million souls, (its) delectable evening resort, Marina Beach will be converted into being 'a thing of beauty and joy forever'.

Attractions and activities

Sunday evening crowd at the Marina Beach

Marina beach is a major tourist attraction of the city. People visiting Chennai make a point to visit the beach. It is also the main place for the local people to escape from the summer heat.[8] The beach is popular for its shops and food stalls run by about 500-odd vendors.[19] The memorials and statues, morning walk, joggers' track, lovers' spot, aquarium, and the like make it a hangout for people of all ages. Kite flying and beach cricket are common sports at the beach, and there are also facilities for pony rides. The sea is generally rough and waves are strong. There are fishermen colonies present at both ends of the beach. There are also joyrides, merry-go-rounds and mini giant wheels along the stretch, although they are installed without permission from any government agency.[20]

Fishing nets on the beach

As part of the 'Chennai Forever' initiative by the Tamil Nadu government, a 34-foot (10 m) tall, artificial waterfall was installed in September 2005 at a cost of INR 1.5 million.[21] A visitor centre near the Cooum river mouth on the Marina, similar to the Marina Barrage Visitor Centre in Singapore and San Antonio Visitor Center in the United States, has been planned as part of an initiative to create awareness of the need for clean waterways.[22]

In 2008, two floating fountains with spray height of 100 feet with colour lights for night view were planned to be installed in sea waters off the beach.[23]

In 2010, the Chennai Corporation procured new cleaning equipments to clean the beach at a cost of INR 8.011 million. These included a sand-cleaning machine capable of cleaning 15,000 m2 area in an hour procured at a cost of INR 3.267 million, three skid steer loaders to clean narrow lanes commissioned at a cost of INR 2.652 million, imported lawn mower, ride-on mechanical sweeper, tree pruner and hedge trimmer. An automatic ticket-vending machine at a cost of INR 170,000 was also commissioned at the Marina swimming pool for managing the crowd. The corporation also planned to construct two more public conveniences at the beach.[24] About 150 corporation staff, including a junior engineer, maintains the lawns and service lanes on the beach.[19]

Renovation

In February 2008, the Chennai Corporation, previously known as The Madras Corporation, took up the Marina Renovation Project with improved landscaping, seating arrangements, walkways, and lighting along the promenade, and architectural elements such as plazas, gazeboes, and pergolas were installed all along the stretch including 4 m-wide non-slippery granite footpaths near the service lane, another 5 m-wide footpath, and 15 m-wide lawns. The blueprint of the renovation project included ornamental fountains, exclusive parking lots for two- and four-wheelers, a children's play area, bus shelters, ramps for physically challenged, and food courts.[25] The whole length of the stretch from Triumph of Labour Statue to the Lighthouse measuring 3.1 km has been divided into 14 harmonious landscaped galleries dotting its span, each with an element of drama attached to the design in the form of small theatre-type galleries where visitors can sit. All the 14 sections vary significantly from one another and were designed in such a way as to the differentiation of sections not leading to any break in the walkway, which is a continuous walking stretch from the Triumph of Labour Statue to the Kamaraj Statue.[26] One of these galleries is flanked by two semi-circular stainless-steel pergolas resting on wire-cut brick columns. The galleries can accommodate over 1,000 people. The choice of natural stones and pillars used in each section of the promenade was based on the type of the buildings on the other side of the road. The walkway was designed as low-lying as is necessary to have a clear view of the beach from the road. A total of 428 octagonal poles with seagull-shaped light fittings and additional high-mast lamps have been erected. Ten modern stainless steel bus shelters have been erected near the beach.[6] There is a skating rink behind the Gandhi Statue which has been improved with hand rails and tiles on the periphery under the project. A total of 14 galleries with seating arrangements and a 4-m internal walkway along the sands and fountains have been created on the 3.1-kilometre (1.9 mi) stretch.[16] The 3-kilometre (1.9 mi) stretch from the Anna Square to the Lighthouse has uninterrupted pavement and a sub-road parallel to the main road. Five reverse osmosis plants capable of providing 30,000 litres of drinking water an hour free of cost to visitors is under construction.[6] As part of the beautification project, the decade-old 250-watt lamps were replaced with 690 anti-corrosive lamps along Kamaraj Salai and the service road.[25] The renovation was completed in 2009 at a cost of INR 259.2 million. Although initially the corporation planned to outsource security personnel to protect the renovated structures,[27] the plan was dropped and about 50 corporation staff were employed to man the stretch.[28]

In 2009, a 4.5-km-long stretch along the beach was announced plastic-free zone, prohibiting the sale and use of plastic.[29][25] In November 2010, the corporation imposed a fine of INR 100 on the usage of plastic items that are less than 20 microns thick on the entire stretch. Within a couple of years since the ban, the use of plastics on the beach was reduced by 70 per cent.[19]

Panoramic view stretch of the sandy Marina beach

Structures along the beach

The PWD Complex
C N Annadurai's Memorial
MGR Memeorial

Being the city's primary area for recreation, the entire stretch features numerous statues and monuments that have come up over the years along the beach promenade, called Kamarajar Salai. While the beach stretches along the eastern side of the road, the western side is dotted with various governmental institutions and historic and stately buildings from the British rule all along its length. Victoria War Memorial, a memorial for the warriors who lost their lives in World War II, marks the northern end of the beach. Memorials for C N Annadurai and M G Ramachandran, former Chief ministers of Tamil Nadu, are present on the northern end of the promenade known as the Anna Square. All along the length of the promenade, stone statues adorn the roadside area of the beach starting from the Triumph of Labour statue, the first statue erected in the beach, near the memorials at the Anna Square to Mahatma Gandhi statue near the lighthouse. Most statues are of national or local legends while others have symbolic significance like the Triumph of Labour statue. The statues along the promenade are:

On 21 July 2006, a statue of the legendary Tamil actor Sivaji Ganesan was erected at the junction of Kamarajar Salai–Dr.Radhakrishnan Salai near the lighthouse.[30]

A typical morning at the Marina

The other side of the road houses several historical buildings and institutions including:

Other structures along the beach include:

  • Anna Swimming Pool
  • Marina Swimming Pool
  • Aquarium
  • Marina Cricket Ground
  • Dr. Annie Besant Park

Transportation

The Marina as seen from the Chennai MRTS

Kamarajar Salai, a six-lane road and one of the arterial roads of Chennai City, runs alongside the beach providing a sea view starting from the Victoria War Memorial near the Cooum River delta till the lighthouse to the south. The road extends further south beyond the lighthouse where it is known as the 'Santhome High Road', running away from the sea but parallel to the beach till Santhome. The Metropolitan Transport Corporation has a terminus called the 'Anna Square' terminus at the northern end of the beach and another named the 'Foreshore Estate' terminus. Railway stations alongside the beach include the Chepauk, the Tiruvallikeni and the Lighthouse MRTS railway stations.

There was a plan to build a 9.7-km elevated road along the beach connecting the lighthouse with the East Coast Road in the south at a cost of INR 10,000 million. However, the plan was dropped due to opposition from the public such as the 'Save Chennai Beaches' campaign.[31]

Safety and security measures and policing

A catamaran on the beach

Bathing and swimming are illegal at Marina beach since the undercurrent in the region is very strong,[32] and there are no lifeguards stationed here. As many people throng the beach, quite often there are drowning mishaps. An estimated five sea-bathers are drowned every month at the beach, and most of the swimmers are dragged by the tides into the debris of a tramp ship SS Damatis that sank off the beach during a cyclone in 1966.[33] Police personnel and lifeguards constantly patrol the whole area, which is divided into seventy-two sections,[8] by means of horses and all-terrain vehicles (known as beach buggies).[34] Five spots off the beach, including near the Anna Square, Kannagi Statue, Triumph of Labour Statue and behind Vivekananda House, have been identified by the police as extremely unsafe due to the presence of whirlpools and rock projections in the seabed. In 2010, 75 people drowned in the sea along the 5-km stretch of the beach.[7] Of this, the 1-km stretch from Anna Square to the Anna swimming pool is considered the most dangerous with as many as 29 persons drowning in the sea in 2010. The deep sea in this stretch is considered to still hold parts of the smacked ship.[35] In 2011, in addition to the tie-up with Coast Guard security personnel, the city police planned for a tie-up with the fire and rescue services department to provide a stand-by rescue team at the beach to save people from drowning. The rescue team, equipped with a rubber boat and a motor-fitted boat, was planned to be stationed at the Anna Square police station or the Marina police station.[36]

The law-enforcing agencies is planning to bring the beach under close watch by means of two watchtowers and at least a dozen surveillance cameras. The Chennai Corporation has agreed in principle to create the security infrastructure based on a proposal sent by the Chennai Police. The watchtowers are proposed to be erected behind the Triumph of Labour statue and the Gandhi statue.[37]

Despite intensive patrolling, illegal bike races and night races are also held along the stretch, resulting in public nuisances and, at times, death of the racers.[38]

Controversies

Crowd at the beach in the evening

With a length of 12 km, including a 6 km promenade, the Marina is considered the world's second longest urban beach,[3] although there exist in fact several longer beaches, including Praia do Cassino (254 km) in Brazil, Cox's Bazar (120 km) in Bangladesh, Padre Island on the U.S. Gulf Coast, Ninety Mile Beach in Australia and Ninety Mile Beach (88 km) in New Zealand. However, unlike most beaches, Marina is a sandy urban beach[4] similar to the Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, helping it earn the title.

In December 2001, the Kannagi statue, which was erected in 1968 on the occasion of a World Tamil Conference held in Chennai, was removed for traffic maintenance reason[39] as part of modernisation of the beach, which led to a huge protest and demonstration by the opposition Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) party. When the DMK later came to power, the statue was installed in the same place on 3 June 2006 by the DMK party chief M. Karunanidhi.[40][41][42]

On 9 August 2003, an open air stage located 350 ft from the sea[43] on the sands of the Marina called Seerani Arangam, constructed in 1970,[44] which was used by religious groups and political parties to address gatherings, was demolished by the state government in order to modernise the beach. This spot was a place where rallies were held for the freedom movement during the British Raj, and the stage was considered a symbol of the historical events that had taken place in the Marina.[45][46] This created a great controversy.

Incidents

In 1966, a tramp ship SS Damatis sank near the Marina due to a cyclone in the region.[33]

The Marina Beach after the tsunami

The beachfront was severely damaged by the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. The tsunami waves, caused due to an M 9.0 magnitude earthquake at about 257 km south-southeast of Banda Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia, on the Indian Ocean floor on 26 December 2004 at 6.20 a.m. IST, struck the beach, which is about 2028 km southeast from the epicentre, at 8.40 a.m. IST. The reported height of the tsunami waves at the beach was 6 m[47] which washed away about 206 persons on the beach,[48][49][50] most of whom were morning joggers and children playing cricket on the beach, including a few tourists.[51] With the assistance of the World Bank, the government built 2,000 temporary Marina beach shelters each measuring about 250 sq.ft. to house families affected by the tsunami at a cost of INR 172.3 million.[52]

Rescue operations at the beach after the tsunami

As a visible change in the beach immediately after the tsunami, the intertidal area was much flatter on 27 December 2004, which usually featured a gentle slope. However, the usual slope started to appear 4 days after the tsunami and normal profile was restored in about 15 days. The receding wave after the tsunami lasted for more than 24 h. Post tsunami, there was a distinct variation in the distribution of sand grains in the beach until the 4th day. However, from the 5th day after the tsunami, normal composition of sand grains appeared to have been restored at different depths.[17] The tsunami also resulted in various geomorphological changes in the region such as those in the contour of the 2,000 km-long Burma plate, which sits atop the India plate, resulting in a rise in the land level of Chennai, ranging between 0.5 cm and 3 cm.[53]

Following the tsunami, there was a distinct increase in the meiofaunal density in the beach. Various meiofauna found in the beach after tsunami include foraminiferans (Elphidium sp.), cnidarians (Halammohydra sp., Psammohydra sp.), turbellarians (Otoplana sp., Macrostomum sp.), nemertines, nematodes (Halalaimus setosus, Desmodora sp., Chromadora sp., Sabatieria sp., Steineria sp., Metapselionema sp.), gastrotrichs (Chaetonotus sp., Thaumastoderma sp.), rotifers, kinorhynchs (Cateria sp.), polychaetes (Hesionides sp.), archiannelids (Polygordius madrasensis, Saccocirrus minor), oligochaetes (Marionina sp.), harpacticiod copepods (Arenosetella indica, Psammastacus acuticaudatus, Leptastacus euryhalinus, Emertonia minuta, Sewellina reductus), ostracods (Polycope sp.), isopods (Angeliera phreaticola), halacarids (Halacarus sp.), insects, and various other species.[17]

Events

Imersion of Ganesh idols on the Marina at Foreshore Estate

Being the most prominent open space in the city, the Marina Beach hosts several events throughout the year. The annual Independence Day and the Republic Day ceremonial parades and airshows are held along the promenade along with the unfurling of the national flag in the Marina. The annual idol-immersion event following the Hindu festival of Vinayaka Chathurthi takes place at the beach where most of the idols of Lord Ganesh kept on display during the festival in the city is immersed into the sea. The event occurs in the month of August-September. The beach is also the venue for several marathon and walkathon campaigns throughout the year conducted for various cause.

The annual Chennai Marathon is held in the beach starting from the Anna Square to Annai Velankanni Church on the Elliot's Beach in Besant Nagar. It is India's biggest city marathon and is also said to be South India's richest marathon, in which over 1,000 athletes and more than a million people participate, which includes various categories such as a 21-km run for professional athletes, a city run for everybody, a junior run for children, a master's run for senior citizens and a wheelchair run for the disabled.[54]

In 2008, the beach played host to India's first International Beach Volleyball Championship, BSNL FIVB Chennai Challenger:2008, from July 15 to 20 to popularize beach volleyball. The event was organized by the Beach Volleyball Club and was sponsored by Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited. Eleven Indian teams along with 60 teams from 21 countries participated in the 6-day-long tournament offering a total prize money of US$40,000 in the men's and US$6,400 in the women's events.[55][56]

See also

References

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