Some time ago, after the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee’s proposal, the BMC had suggested several additions of buildings and sites in the city to its heritage list. This had sparked huge controversy, with several residents opposing the heritage move, citing that it would become very difficult for them to do any kind of modifications to old, dilapidated buildings.
Obviously, the inability to go in for ‘redevelopment’ may have also been a concern, as there are big bucks for redevelopment given the current trend in Mumbai. Politicians too smelling an opportunity, had jumped into the fray, many siding with the irked parties and expressing supposed concern about the difficulties this would cause owners.
On Saturday, this paper ran a piece, which showed just how inane such issues were. In a city that is struggling to preserve existing heritage buildings, it is little point in bringing other buildings and sites into the fold.
Our story concentrated on Girgaum’s famous Khotachiwadi which has already fallen prey to the builder’s bulldozer. Bungalows full of character have now been replaced by buildings and the precinct as we knew it, is in mortal danger of being wiped off the city’s map altogether. Some drilling work in the area has damaged some old structures residents have claimed.
It is so important that the city’s heritage committee along with civic authorities look to preserve and dedicate itself to the upkeep of existing heritage structures. Activists have been crying themselves hoarse over the vanishing Khotachiwadi character for years now, but there is some sporadic support for a while, till even those opposing all the development usually keel over because this is such an uphill, energy-sapping battle.
It is time to make heritage conservation not just a fashionable phrase to be bandied at Page 3 parties but to live it and breathe it. If such a prominent historical and landmark precinct is getting obliterated, there is very little hope for the stunning, odd building lining Mumbai’s streets.
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