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Is Crawford Market complex a heritage site, asks panel

india Updated: Feb 17, 2009 01:23 IST
Chitrangada Choudhury

Following a meeting with Municipal Commissioner Jairaj Phatak on February 12, the Mumbai heritage committee has decided to ask the state government’s Urban Development Department to clarify whether the 1869 Crawford Market complex is a heritage site.

The Brihanmumbai Mun-icipal Corporation (BMC)-owned market site has been cast in controversy since 2007 when corporators decided to allow shopkeepers and a private developer to build a controversial shopping mall in the open spaces of the 169-year-old market complex.

According to a BMC-commissioned 2007 document, the developer would earn an estimated Rs 1,710 crore.

The committee, an advisory body of experts drawn from different disciplines, is entrusted with ensuring the heritage regulations are implemented in the city, and its decisions are binding on the BMC.

Despite its visit to the neglected and derelict market site some weeks ago, and examining of official documents, this committee could not decide whether the entire market site was a Grade-I protected space, committee chairman Dinesh Afzalpurkar told HT.

“Members were divided on the issue, and the commissioner disagreed with the view of the previous committee. We all decided that some clarification is now needed from the state government,” he added.

This latest move runs contrary to the previous heritage committee’s decision in April 2008 stating categorically that the entire complex is a protected site, with the Grade-I tag, which disallows new constructions that alter the historic property.

The committee had founded its decision on the fact that on official development plan map a boundary around the complex demarcates it as a heritage site.

But against the backdrop of the builder’s plan to build a mall in the market complex, Phatak had objected to this, telling the current committee to consider the BMC’s view that only the iconic clock tower building and the fountain mentioned on the city’s heritage list are protected structures. This would mean that the rest of the complex—almost 4/5th of the space—could be opened up for new constructions.

Afzalpurkar refused to comment on the development plan map, but said his committee was concerned about the site’s restoration. “We are giving permission to conservation architect Abha Narain Lambah (her plan has been with the BMC since a year) to go ahead with conservation of the clock tower and the fountain,” he said. “The structure will not suffer because of our decision to send the matter to the government.”

The sprawling Gothic-style market has close to 900 licenced shopkeepers — family traders in fruits, vegetables, meat and imported savories from chocolates to cheese — owning rented spaces since generations.