Mylapore is in the news, for what seems to be the wrong reasons. It is learnt that the Government, by way of modernisation, has decided to demolish all the single-storey residences that are owned by the temple, to make way for structures of two or three floors. The families residing there, it is understood, will be compensated.
It is the age-old tactic that is a copy book lesson on how to do away with heritage – neglect the old buildings until they become decrepit and then make that a convenient excuse for demolition. The houses as they are, are undoubtedly in a terrible condition but they have become that way for want of even basic maintenance. While nobody questions the right of the families in residence for better standards of living and the compensation that is to be paid, what is lamentable is to demolish the houses themselves. In other parts of the world, these would have become boutiques and retained the heritage fabric of the locality. What will happen now is that the PWD will put up a set of multi-storey structures that will be grotesquely out of place. They will also be poorly built, as is evident in the case of tenements that are ready to collapse within two years of construction, and present a shabby appearance. All of this is enough to destroy the Mylapore we know, not to mention the stress that such buildings will put on an already challenged infrastructure.
We hope that government will consider the idea of retaining the buildings as they are and improving their upkeep. It is also time to look at creative ways of utilising these spaces. The usual kalyana mandapam and shopping complexes are not the answer.