The quaint oasis of Portuguese-style abodes in a city chiefly decked out in Victorian and Art Deco architecture is under abrasive attack from a high rise in the making. Khotachiwadi in Girgaum has evoked lament from conservationists who rue that the heritage village has whittled down from the 65 dwellings originally designed in Portuguese style to 26 today, the rest having been sacrificed at the plinth of modernity.
Now, the extant structures are under threat as another skyscraper digs its foundation where a 150-year-old bungalow used to stand. Dias House, a monument to the continental charm of the houses in Khotachiwadi, was demolished over two years ago to make way for an 18-storey building.
This paper had reported (‘Another one bites the dust’, November 27, 2010) how the bungalow was to be torn down to fuse with the monotony of skyscrapers. The birth of this new steel-and-mortar structure is shaking the old buildings in the village. The construction is allegedly causing cracks in the old bungalows, residents complain.
A letter by the Khotachiwadi Welfare and Heritage Trust, dated February 21, addressed to the chief minister states that residents have complained of cracks developing in the walls of their houses due to the new structure’s piling work - which requires digging into the earth for laying foundation. MiD DAY has a copy of the letter.
James Ferreira, a resident who stays in a 210-year-old bungalow, showed this reporter the broken tiles in his house. His neighbour R Gonsalves, who stays in a 150-year-old house, showed cracks making their way through the walls of his house. He said he first spotted the disfiguration in February, and the walls only got more defaced after that. “Even some lights have stopped working,” he said.
Most bungalows in the area date back to the last century and before that. The residents are now seeking an immediate stop on the work. They have written to other state authorities as well. Ferreira said, “We are not against anyone, but the construction work is damaging our bungalows. These are old, heritage bungalows and we want to protect them. We have asked the state to help us. We also want the government to compensate for the damage.”
Khotachiwadi locals said the building being erected in place of Dias House has an approach road lesser than 10 feet in breadth. They are worried that in case of emergency, any help would be stuck in the narrow lane. Gonsalves, who measured the road using an inch-tape, said, “The road’s not more than 10 feet wide, and the building coming up here is too tall. How would emergency services reach us in times of need?”
When MiD DAY contacted builder Daksesh Kanakia of DeeKay Realtors - the firm constructing the building - he claimed he has not received any complaints from the residents. “I have all the necessary permissions for carrying out construction. The question of the approach road is not an issue because it has been arranged for it to be on the other side, where our transit building currently stands.” He added, “None of the residents ever came to us regarding the problem of cracks because of our construction activity.”