Our cultural and natural heritage are both irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration, says UNESCO. It is a statement that resonates particularly on World Heritage Day, which falls today and is dedicated to preserving monuments across the world.
Heritage and development are on a constant collision course especially in a city like Mumbai, where activists are waging a losing battle against developers and builders due to paucity of space. We have been witness to bitter battles between the preservation lobby and those who believe that the old must give way to the new.
It is important though that this city, which is defined by speed, retain its heritage, because a city without its legacy is a city without soul. Let us find a way to make progress and preservation exist side by side. One cannot be sacrificed at the altar of the other.
For that, we need to re-define what progress really is. Is it all about building another highway, so that commuters can reach a certain destination faster, even if that means chopping down swathes of trees and demolishing heritage buildings? Would the former be worthier than the latter?
A commercial glass-n- cement city cannot swamp structures where history whispers in every crevice, where stones breathe tales of tradition and crenellated exteriors speak of glorious workmanship in every curve and mould.
There must be a happy balance achieved so that Mumbai does not lose slices of history. The benefits of heritage preservation are intangible, so difficult to quantify. Do not treat it lightly for a city’s monuments speak volumes about its character and the conscience of its citizens.