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Apeksha Bagchi

IWB Blogger

Mumbai Is Now The Leading City As Cultural Centre: Abha Lambah On The City’s Third Heritage Site Title

  • IWB Post
  •  July 10, 2018

Mumbai’s Victoria Gothic and Art Deco ensemble has been, recently, given the green light by ICOMOS (International Council for Monuments & Sites), an advisory body to UNESCO, to be declared as a World Heritage Site. This will be Mumbai’s third such site — the Elephanta Caves and the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus are also on the UNESCO list.

In a conversation with The Indian Express, conservation expert Abha Narain Lambah talks about what does the latest World Heritage Site tag means for Mumbai.

On Mumbai getting its third World Heritage Site title

“Firstly, it means that in India, Mumbai is now the leading city as a cultural center. The world heritage tag draws the kind of tourists you want for your country because they impact your economy most positively. Secondly, unlike all the other sites in India, which are largely medieval and ancient, Mumbai reconfigures the idea (of heritage). It’s not monument centric.”

On what will happen to people living  in some of these buildings

“The world heritage tag gives an added prestige to the buildings, but it doesn’t take away the rights of the people to live in them. It doesn’t mean that they can’t do repairs. Even now, for these buildings, they have to go to the heritage committee for any repairs. The UNESCO status has added no other regulatory mechanism, but it gives options for better funding. For example, there are ministry of tourism grants available that Maharashtra can use by repositioning itself.”

On whether it will change the way built heritage is looked at in India

“I hope so. This changes the paradigm, that architecture and monument is not about a building that is locked down at sunset. In Mumbai, this is not how we look at heritage. A person gets down at CST, which is a heritage building. If you want to get married or go to school or college here in South Mumbai, it is a heritage building. For Mumbaikars, it is an intimate thing. In Delhi, heritage is equal to the dead monument where a security guard is shooing away people when the building is locked down. In Mumbai, heritage buildings are living breathing structures.”

On how to balance development and conservation 

“We informed UNESCO about Metro and said that in a historic city, be it Paris, Athens, there is underground Metro in historical areas. Underground Metro will reduce vehicular movement overground, encourage pedestrian movement and its design is in sync with the heritage precinct. UNESCO had no problem with it. They realized mass transport is necessary. If we need modern infrastructure, then we design it in accordance with heritage precincts to balance development and conservation.”

On what the future holds such heritage sites.

“If we put in our resources and the Maharashtra government rethinks its tourism policy, there can be better incentives for private building owners to maintain their heritage buildings. A lot of buildings come under MHADA repair board and they have nothing on conservation. Different government departments need to rethink how they can together conserve heritage. We need to review policies like 33(7) and 33(9) of redevelopment control rules to see if it can be modified to conserve a facade while redeveloping.”

H/T: The Indian Express



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