Chennai: Union Minister GK Vasan has unveiled an ambitious plan in the city, announcing that 13 light houses across the country, four of them in Tamil Nadu, were to be made heritage centres and tourist attractions. Besides depicting the maritime heritage of the country that goes back thousands of years, the project will see major properties around lighthouses being developed- with spas, hotels and cottages dotting the scenic locales. The unique project is believed to be the brainchild of the Directorate of Lighthouses and Light Ships (DGLL).
After the launch, the Minister said, “The main objective of the project is to promote 13 identified lighthouses located at scenic places along the coastline of the country.” He added, “Lighthouses not only guide vessels but are also their friends. A new chapter is beginning in this direction."
Included in the project is Goa’s famous Aguada lighthouse that was built in 1864, and is one of the oldest of its kind in Asia. A prominent landmark on the Aguada fort on Sinquerim beach, the Aguada lighthouse offers a breathtaking view of the beach and the surrounding waters, and is in many ways an ideal tourist spot.
Vasan said that three new lighthouses would be constructed at Marakkanam, Venbam and Koothangudi in Tamilnadu; these would create good employment opportunities for the locals. Other well known lighthouses familiar to many mariners will be upgraded as well. These include the Rameswaram Light House, Muttam-Kanyakumari Lighthouse, Dolphin Nose Light House in Andhra Pradesh and Kadalur Point in Kerala. Also included are lighthouses on the Minicoy Islands, Veraval and Dwarka in Gujarat, Gopalpur, Chandrabhag and the False Point Light House in Orissa.
The three year project will be spearheaded by the DGLL, which wants to turn these lighthouses and surrounding areas into maritime landmark destinations with the development of world class infrastructure. In addition, a Rs 50 crore National Heritage Museum will be set up at the historic city of Mammallapuram near Chennai; Another Rs 5 crore lighthouse museum will be built on the city’s famous Marina. "The proposed National Maritime Heritage Museum at Mammalapuram will showcase centuries-old vessels being used in the Indian sub-continent. As maritime history and the ocean always excites the common man, we are trying to portray the life of mariners and vessels in these museums, near the light house structure near Mammallapuram," KK Braroo, Deputy Director General of the DGLL said.
"In Chennai, the proposed museum depicting maritime history will be showcased inside the light house that attracts hundreds of tourists visiting the Marina. The project, to be executed in private-public partnership mode, is expecting to be allocated Rs 300 crores across the country, of which Rs 100 crore will be spend in Tamil Nadu," he added.
Sound and light shows on maritime history are also being planned. "Besides the remains of ancient ships, visitors can see ancient navigation aids, the differences in the sea routes and communication codes used by ancient mariners when there were no radio-satellite technologies," Deputy Director General (Mumbai) JS Chauhan said.
India's first light house was constructed at Mammallapuram in the 8th century by the Pallavas. Mr. Vasan pointed out in his speech that Poompuhar, Thondi, Musiri, Vanchi and Korkai were other well-known Tamil ports of that era.