State must strike a balance between development, heritage

Today, this paper carries a detailed report about how a swathe of residential buildings in the Dadar, Matunga, Five Gardens area may become a heritage site if a proposed list is implemented.

The report revolves around concerned citizens voicing their dissent at their buildings being termed as heritage because of a number of reasons.

The city has more than 20,000 odd dilapidated buildings including cessed properties, which fall under MHADA and other government and private bodies. If these buildings are not repaired in time, their condition is bound to worsen.

Residents claim that carrying the heritage tag will not allow redevelopment of their buildings. They are even more worried that they will have to run around extensively for permissions from the Heritage Committee for repairs. The heritage tag for them is more of a bane than a status symbol or boon.

They certainly have some valid points, because many residential structures within this area are dilapidated and time is lost in getting permissions which may result in its collapse. Yet, it is no doubt, that with redevelopment and high-rises, a certain flavour of the area is lost completely, and its aesthetic value is eroded.

The government has to strike that fine balance between development and heritage. Permissions for repairs must be a smooth, quick affair, instead of being riddled in red tape.

For redevelopment, builders must be made to adhere to certain rules and regulations, so that even if the area’s look is changed, there can be some uniformity in the design and a feel of the place can be retained.

We cannot deny that these residential buildings, made in a different era, were not designed to withstand the heavy influx of people, or our contemporary lifestyle.

So, development would have to be closely monitored by the government. Maybe certain structures within these areas can have the heritage tag and those that are without can be developed keeping some essential principles in mind.

All this has to be done with an eye on the human angle.

The Heritage Committee needs to factor in people, before giving sweeping labels and tags to places, that can give rise to rage and eventually maybe, a revolt. 

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