Why Mumbai needs specialists

Nov 09, 2015, 07:48 IST | Fiona Fernandez

Last week, many of the city’s heritage lovers were in for a rude shock

Last week, many of the city’s heritage lovers were in for a rude shock. The Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee had announced its list of experts, but it lacked the name of a single independent urban planner or a conservation architect. Each member is on the payroll of the government in some form or holds an ex-officio posting.

After the debacle that ensued following the gaffes in the Development Plan, this news has stirred a debate in the fraternity, especially with regards to state projects like Metro III and the Mumbai coastal road.

For the lay reader, the decision might not strike a chord immediately, yet it’s important to spell out the larger picture because, at the end of the day, this is about Mumbai, its rich history and heritage. More importantly, public awareness is a factor that needs to be driven home, particularly when so much is at stake.

Take for instance, the fallout of coastal road project, which mid-day reported about extensively (‘Will Rs 12,000-crore coastal road project take away Mumbai’s iconic sea view?’, September 8).

Sea views aside, historic landmarks like the Bandra Fort will be reduced to traffic islands. This would be unfortunate, and a loss to an integral element of our cityscape.

Several experts feel that the absence of independent views on the heritage panel might bias decisions, leading to irreversible scenarios, causing further threat to the city’s already fragile heritage ecosystem. On the other side, some feel that the present list will aid in transparency, ensuring that personal stakes in projects don’t get tabled.

For too long, Mumbai has experienced raging storms that threaten its diverse and envious mix of multi-cultural heritage from all directions, including land sharks, and consecutive apathetic and indifferent administrations.

Buildings of immense historic worth to Mumbai have been, and continue to be, razed to the ground at the drop of a hat. Look at the fast-changing character of neighbourhoods like Dadar’s Hindu and Parsi colonies, or Bandra’s charming boroughs, and you’ll see proof of this rapid transformation.

We are hopeful that Mumbai doesn’t get reduced to a pawn in the process. It’s a city filled with progressive minds and visionaries who care for its health and well being — let’s not cheat it of its status as the Urbs Primus in Indus (Latin for foremost or primary city of India) that it was chosen to be.

The writer is Features Editor of mid-day

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