Mumbai: Government wants Esplanade Mansion preserved

Updated: Jul 19, 2019, 07:21 IST | Arita Sarkar

The state government's Urban Development department writes to MHADA, asking it to take steps to restore the heritage structure

Mumbai: Government wants Esplanade Mansion preserved
Esplanade Mansion has been over the past few months been vacated, its shops and offices sealed, and its surrounding area barricaded. File Pic

The fight to save the 150-year-old Esplanade Mansion has received a boost from the Urban Development (UD) department. With conservationists and international bodies advocating its restoration, the UD department has taken a stand to save one of the world's last surviving cast iron structures. In a letter dated June 26, principal secretary Nitin Kareer asked MHADA to have experts conduct a study of the building and restore it."

The letter addressed to Milind Mhaiskar, vice president of MHADA, refers to the letters sent by heritage conservationists from various organisations like the UK-based The International Committee for the Conservation of the Industrial Heritage (TICCIH) who are advocating to prevent the demolition of Esplanade Mansion. Kareer, in the letter, has stated that the building is part of the Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensembles of Mumbai and added that UNESCO has also included the structure in the list of World Heritage Sites.

Kareer told mid-day that this is the second letter sent to MHADA, with the first one sent on August 28 last year."After MHADA submitted the report from IIT Bombay, we have suggested that they should get another report from structural consultants who work on heritage structures and see what best can be done to conserve the building," said Kareer.

The letter also mentions that the UD's stand should be presented in the ongoing case at the Bombay High Court.

When contacted, Mhaiskar said that taking up the restoration of Esplanade Mansion is a bigger issue and the costs of restoring the structure have to be considered.

"MHADA is very sensitive about the heritage of Mumbai. Esplanade Mansion is a privately-owned building. To repair it with crores of tax payer's money is simply unfair. There may be many heritage buildings in Mumbai. Should the government repair and reconstruct all of them just because some international agency says so? Where will the funds come from? The poor taxpayer, again?" he questioned. He added that the government will need to think holistically.

'Welcome to suggestions'

Apart from TICCIH, various organisations like the World Monuments Fund, The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and Federation of Residents' Trust have written to the UD department and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis among others to oppose the demolition of the heritage structure.
Mhaiskar welcomed the help and said,"Heritage restoration is a big issue. We are completely open to taking suggestions and welcome the involvement of all these organisations." A reply to Kareer's letter, he said, will be sent in a week's time.

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