Wanted: Heritage watchdogs for Mumbai

The writing is on the wall. Make that graffiti, actually. Look around, and these eyesores greet the eye at every nook and corner of our heritage structures, many of which constitute iconic landmarks of Mumbai, that make for a disturbing pattern. Such a scenario lies unchecked for decades together.

Today is World Heritage Day, and, sadly, there is no resonance or semblance of thought let alone effort or initiative by state authorities to re-look at our city’s diverse, envious heritage, with an expert eye. Nobody, barring a few heritage groups and activists, seem to care about its slow ruin.

What stops the lawmakers from imposing stiff fines or enforcing tough rules and regulations empowering them to play watchdog each time a heritage building is being renovated or restored? In the past, this newspaper has reported how even the UNESCO World Heritage site Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus wasn’t spared, where rash demolition had damaged portions of the original railway station. How this missed the eyes of the supervisors defies logic. Examples like these are far too many.

Clearly, this lack of concern stems from zero awareness, thanks to our education system. Scant mention is found, in school or college textbooks, of our city’s rich and diverse heritage that bears amazing influences ranging from the Gothic to Art Deco to Indo-Saracenic. As one walks past these grand reminders of our past, there is no signage for the layman that provides information about its origins and historic significance. Naturally, how and why will we ever learn of its significance in the shaping of this city? Another engaging way to instill pride in our heritage is by opening up these landmarks to the public. We’re pretty sure that it can go a long way in getting an impressionable 14-year-old hooked on to heritage.

All is not lost. But we cannot sit back on our Bombay Fornicators and hope for these citadels to stand the test of time without a helping hand.

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