Citizens' appeals to save Esplanade reach Centre
Citizen group writes to Ministry of Culture requesting intervention in matter and to take measures to protect the 150-year-old structure
Amid ongoing discussions between the Urban Development Department and MHADA and the case pending in the Bombay High Court (HC), members of the Federation of Residents Trust (FORT) are trying to explore other ways to save the iconic Esplanade Mansion from a possible demolition. They have written to the Culture Ministry at the Centre asking them to intervene in the matter and take measures to protect the 150-year-old structure that is listed as a World Heritage Ensemble under UNESCO.
The members of FORT sent their first letter to Secretary of the Ministry of Culture, Arun Goel, on July 25, and then wrote to him again on August 30. In the letters, they have stated that neither the state government nor the civic body have taken any measures to protect the buildings in the city that are part of the Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensemble.
The letter also refers to an evaluation report filed by the UNESCO and ICOMOS last year that includes guidelines and recommendations, which specifically mention concerns about the Esplanade Mansion also known as Watson's Hotel. The FORT members have also highlighted the risk of losing the World Heritage tag if the state government fails to protect the Esplanade Mansion from irreversible damage.
The letter says, "The World Heritage tag is a unique honour bestowed on our city and it is the state government's responsibility to ensure that the UNESCO inscription and ICOMOS report is honoured in letter and spirit. The delay in their implementation threatens the significance and Outstanding Universal Value of the ensembles." The members have requested Goel to 'take suitable action to preempt any negative fallout for not just Mumbai but also India'. The letter further states that any threat of de-listing would jeopardise the country's reputation on the international platform.
Speaking to mid-day, Maneck Davar, chairperson of Kala Ghoda Association and a FORT member, said the precinct of the building should be maintained from a design point of view and they expect the union government to intervene. "Citizens can take responsibility to a certain extent. The government should ensure that the structure is restored properly and brought back to its original form," he said. He added that the government should also decide on the utility of the building and could consider converting it into a museum or a multipurpose public space. Goel has not responded to the queries despite several calls and messages.
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