The Pallikkaranai wetland was originally covered 6000 hectares. Now it is reduced to a mere 700 hectares due to encroachments and dumping of solid waste.
At last, there is some effort to conserve what is left. As a part of this effort, an eco-park has come up and is thrown open to the public.
A large stage-like entrance greets visitors to this 2.5-hectare park. Different species of trees have been planted and some of them are labeled in English and Tamizh. There are boards and installations of flora and fauna with some useful information that could be of interest to students and nature enthusiasts. There is a fully tiled pathway running parallel to the Velachery-Tambaram road. The other pathway is more interesting. It runs straight from the entrance and is made up of two mud tracks separated by a lawn and goes around a pond. Despite warning signs, people have already started walking on the grass. I am sure selfie-seekers will have a field day. So also serious birders. The water bodies look a bit anemic now but I am sure after the rains, it will be a refreshing sight. There were a few birds- herons, egrets, and cormorants. Again I hope there may be more migratory birds in the season.
There is a feeling that the park is designed more for people than for the flora and fauna. One critic even labeled this Rs.20-crore development as “Greenwashing”. I am of the opinion that any incremental improvement should be celebrated in these desperate times.
The park is open from dawn to dusk. At present, entrance is free but a sign warns “Soonly Tickets will be Collected”!!
Higginbothams is perhaps the oldest bookstore in India. It was started by an English stowaway, Abel Higginbothams in 1844. It was taken over by the Amalgamations Group (Simpson’s) in 1945.
During our growing up years, Higginbothams was the go-to shop for any books. Most railway stations in South India also had a Higginbothams stall (some still exist) where we picked up newspapers, magazines and Perry Mason paperbacks (for about 4 or 5 rupees) during travel.
Despite the onslaught of competition from new generation bookstores, online stores, and ebooks, Higginbothams has survived. What is more, the management has restored the iconic heritage building on Mount Road. Our esteem for the management of Amalgamations Group goes up when we see the historic Bharat Insurance Building (Kardyl building) just opposite to Higginbothams which was to be razed to the ground by the Government-owned LIC to put up a ‘modern’ monstrosity.
The neglected mandapam lies very close to the busy ECR at Poonjeri, just a few kilometres from Mahabalipuram. From the sculptures on its pillars and other evidence, it is clear that it must be at least four centuries old. It must have been part of a temple complex or a choultry for travellers. The carvings on the pillars include divine figures, erotica, flowers, and surprisingly, the likeness of a European.
Already vandals are at work. Conservationist should step in before any further damage is done. This is a fit case for ASI to take over for conservation.
The Madras Crocodile Park is a unique conservation centre where you can view over 2500 different reptiles in an area of about 9 acres.
Once can see various types of Crocodiles, alligators, turtles and snakes. A star attraction in the venom extraction at the Herpetology centre. The park is open from 8-30 am to 5-30 pm. Mondays are holidays.
The park started almost four decades ago through the tireless efforts of Mr Romulus Whitaker and has attained international attention and acclaim.
This picture of the 85-year-old Sarafaly building on Broadway (Popham’s Broadway, or Prakasham Salai) was taken by me 4 years ago. Even at that time, it was rundown, sealed and silently awaiting the onslaught of the bulldozer. Wonder what is it’s condition now!