Thiruvananthapuram: The very old Chala market here is now a crowded, dirty place noted for its vegetable waste piles and dilapidated buildings. Soon, this commercial hub at the state capital will transform into a heritage tourism destination. The historical market has always held a prominent place in the social and cultural evolution of Thiruvananthapuram. To give it a makeover as per the latest tourism needs, the Kerala government has constituted a committee which aims at its comprehensive restructuring while giving due attention to its cultural and commercial dynamics and distinctions.
At a meeting of traders, local leaders, representatives of major political parties and officials, tourism minister Kadakampally Surendran announced the proposed model for renovating Chala market and sought inputs from the gathering.
Habitat Technology Group, a private construction company, will carry out the state government's ambitious project which is expected to bring about an upsurge in the district's tourism industry.
Commenting on the project, Habitat Technology chief architect G Shankar told Onmanorama that restructuring a 400-year-old commercial hub is indeed a challenge as it requires immense knowledge of Chalai's history and a sheer foresight about its evolution.
“I have submitted my preliminary design of Chala market to the minister. Vehicle parking, ample foot paths for pedestrians and uniformity in the building designs are the basic things I had looked at. We don't intent to change the existing market dynamics of Chala. With my experience in slum rehabilitation, I have envisaged enough spaces for inculcating the street vendors, petty shopkeepers and hand-vendors. I want to maintain the mysteries of the network of alleys in the market. I don't intend a renovation but a healthy reassurance of all the historic, architectural and commercial versatility of that antique market place,” Shankar said.
Shankar stressed on the need for a high level of interdepartmental coordination for the project from the beginning to the end. “All the government departments, right from the state electricity board and public works department to Thiruvananthapuram municipality should come together to accomplish this task. We look forward to complete the primary construction works within a year,” he said.
Long heritage street
The proposed heritage street will cover a distance of 3 km from East Fort junction to Killippalam. The side-walls will be inscribed with paintings and portraits from local Travancore history. The logo of the heritage street would adorn the entrance to the street. Underground electric lines, well-planned drainage system and underground passages will make the marketplace look compact and clean, the minister said. A tile-roofed foot path, park benches, gardens and flower-pots are the other highlights.
Aryashaala junction is also expected to get new look.
Surendran said that indigenous cultural hubs and market places are dying a slow death in the wake of increasing number of shopping malls and supermarkets. “Thiruvananthapuram will surely benefit a lot from the timely revival of Chala market. With adequate fix for the congested traffic and frequent traffic blocks, this native market will cater to all the commercial needs of the static and dynamic crowd occupying the capital city,” he said.
Tourism director P Balakiran, district collector Dr. K Vasuki, VS Sivakumar, MLA, and several other dignitaries attended the Thursday's meeting to discuss the renovation project.