Tomorrow, Friday April 18, is World Heritage Day or International Day for sites and monuments. It is a day, especially for Mumbaikars, to reflect and process just how heritage structures in the city are treated, what is the way forward and how we can achieve that elusive balance — development with preservation because that is what the eternal debate is about.
First of course, is the huge problem with residential precincts which have heritage value. This is a real conundrum for residents and the heritage committee alike. Residents complain that they cannot go in for repairs or redevelopment and the buildings are on the brink of collapse. If redevelopment is allowed, it is but natural that the character of the precinct will change completely and finally, be lost altogether.
Residents and authorities must come to an agreement where at least some facets of heritage can be retained along with the development, or to compensate, green areas must be created in this concrete jungle of a city. This is an all-pervasive problem, especially in swathes of Matunga and Dadar where residents are up against designating their pockets of homes as heritage areas and consequently being unable to modernise buildings.
Then of course, is the other aspect where heritage structures and green sites are being demolished or simply swallowed up in the city, in the name of development. It is only when activists rally around them that some of these structures, sites and monuments are saved. We need to understand the importance of preserving our history.
They are silent sentinels of our city’s history. So to allow the obliteration of all that we stood for, is to allow erasure of our roots. People need to be civic minded and not deface monuments and sites. Our historical monuments lie in ruins at certain places and that is because, we, the people do not have enough respect for them. Today, on World Heritage Day it is time to practice the three R theory respect, revere and remember.