For long, activists have been rallying to get Mumbai’s architectural sites on the UNESCO world heritage list. Now, they have a new addition to their list of supporters: chief minister Devendra Fadnavis.
In a letter written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on January 7, Fadnavis has made a strong pitch for Mumbai’s Victorian, Gothic and Art Deco buildings — including areas in south Mumbai spanning from the Fort precinct to the Backbay Reclamation area, and the buildings around the 22-acre Oval Maidan stretching upto Marine Drive — to be nominated as India’s cultural entry to the list.
The entry is on the tentative list highlighted on the UNESCO’s website.
“No other city in the world has an urban conglomeration which is a living city centre where you have the finest neo-gothic collection of buildings opposite one of the best art deco collections and both facing each other across the wonderful green 22-acre Oval Maidan,” stated Fadnavis, in his letter.
Fadnavis, in his letter, has highlighted how Mumbai attracts businessmen from India and foreign countries, and can earn the unique distinction of being both a financial capital and world heritage site like London and put India on the world tourism map.
The nomination, which was endorsed by the ministry of culture in 2012, needs to be urgently endorsed by the Union government, states the letter. In 2014, Mumbai lost its chance to Delhi, which was nominated for the UNESCO awards by India.
Citizens, heritage experts and architects who has been working on the nomination dossier from 2003, including the late historian Sharada Dwivedi, architect Abha Narain Lambah, Kala Ghoda Association, UDRI, Oval Trust, Oval Cooperage Residents Association (OCRA) among others, are pleased with the development.
“The speed with which the CM has taken up the issue is commendable. We are happy the government is interested in the project. Getting a heritage tag will boost Mumbai’s image, tourism and business potential,” said Dev Mehta, former Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage and OCRA member.
Conservation architect Abha Narain Lamba said if the entry goes through, it will be the victory of the spirit of public participation.
“The nomination dossier was prepared with the help of funds from citizen groups. It is interesting that the 19th century Victorian buildings in south Mumbai were also built through support of citizens such as Cowasjee Jehangir, Premchand Roychand, and David Sassoon,” said Lambah.