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Heritage: Mumbai's heritage movement, and other highlights

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1980: Bombay’s heritage movement
The heritage movement in Mumbai actually starts off as an environmental one. Under the Morarji Desai government, it is decided that the Yacht Club in Mumbai (then called Bombay) would be razed to build a highrise. Eminent people from the city, including former municipal commissioner, Jamshed Kanga, compile a list of important heritage structures in Bombay and send it across to the then Municipal Commissioner. It is the first time that people in the city come together to save iconic buildings.


The heritage movement saves many structures, such as CST, which, in 2004, is accorded UNESCO World Heritage Site status. (Below) Khotachiwadi. File Photos

1984: INTACH founded
Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) is registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860. It is modelled on the lines of the National Trust in England, an organisation dedicated to preserving heritage. INTACH prepares a list, comprising 600 buildings of heritage value in Bombay. However, the list does not include precincts just yet. City historian, Foy Nissen, is the advisor and historian on board.

Khotachiwadi

1995: City gets Heritage Conservation Act
The first heritage committee legislation is drafted in 1992. In 1995, the state government enforces the Heritage Conservation Act. As a result, 615 buildings and 14 precincts are listed as heritage structures. Mumbai becomes the first city in the country to have legislation for heritage, and have a committee of urban planners and conservation architects.

2004: CST named UNESCO World Heritage site
The Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST), formerly known as Victoria Terminus, was built by Frederick William Stevens in 1887 in Gothic-revival style. The structure took 10 years to build and cost £260,000. It is named UNESCO World Heritage Site this year.

Then & Now

Vikas Dilawari,conservation architect

‘We’ve gained a lot, but lost just as much’
Is heritage conservation really a movement in Mumbai? That’s a tough question, given the frequency with which heritage structures in the city are listed and later de-listed. I feel the biggest issue the city faces is the lack of government patronage. No conservationist is against development -- we feel that any progress must be sensitive to the city’s heritage.

We gained much over the past three decades, but lost just as much. One of the biggest blows to the cause of conservation was when, in 1998, Grade III cess structures, or those in heritage precincts, were removed from the purview of the MHCC. As a result, redevelopers got a free hand with old structures, which allowed redevelopment that did not keep up with a precinct’s character. Many buildings in Khotachiwadi have suffered because of this.

Structures need incentives and awareness. Just listing them is not going to cut it. We don’t have a single Indian government award in place yet. Many law-abiding clients feel that permissions don’t come fast enough. Like in case of tenantable repairs, application to the heritage committee takes the same time as complex repairs and reconstruction.This is a deterrent, too, and, if changed, can be an incentive. Along with an increased scope in listing, we need heritage cells in the four zones or ward offices to give quick persmissions to tenantable repairs.

We don’t have a repair policy in place yet. Not every one is in favour of redevelopment, but what could one expect if they haveto choose between crumbling structures and newer buildings? There is a middle way -- new structures could be integrated into the old. Sadly, that’s not the case in the city, yet.

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