Heritage body wants more teeth | mumbai | Hindustan Times
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Heritage body wants more teeth

Stroll through Khotachiwadi, the heritage precinct in south Mumbai, and you’ll see new oil paint-coated high-rise buildings corrupting the area’s architectural character, reports Bhavika Jain.

mumbai Updated: Dec 07, 2009 01:57 IST
Bhavika Jain

Stroll through Khotachiwadi, the heritage precinct in south Mumbai, and you’ll see new oil paint-coated high-rise buildings corrupting the area’s architectural character.

Alarmed at the way cluster development and slum rehabilitation schemes are eating into the character of heritage precincts across the city, the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee (MHCC) says it will ask the state government to restore its powers to scrutinise redevelopment proposals for grade-III structures.

Grade-III structures are buildings located within 100 metres of a Grade-I heritage structure. Reconstruction is allowed only if it is structurally weak or unsafe.

Redevelopment proposals for grade-III structures used to be referred to the MHCC, till the introduction of new legislation under Development Control Rule (DCR) from Section 1-20, which says these structures can be redeveloped under the cluster development policy and as slum rehabilitation schemes.

Listed buildings scheduled for redevelopment under cluster development and other such schemes are currently cleared by various government agencies. Cluster development means clubbing of all kinds of buildings — heritage structures, government buildings and slums — to be redeveloped as much taller structures.

According to MHCC, this plan threatens the distinctive visual character of the city’s remaining heritage quarters, by replacing it with a skyline of homogeneous high-rises. “We will write to the state government asking them to restore our powers that were diluted by the new regulation under DCR 33,” said a member of the MHCC requesting anonymity.

“These new laws override the norms of the heritage committee. It is not long before our heritage will be replaced with high rises,” said city-based historian Sharada Dwivedi. “By clubbing together our heritage precincts with slums for redevelopment, our historical legacy is being degraded, which is why we want our eroded powers back,” said another member of the MHCC, also requesting anonymity.

Cluster development has resulted in a slew of tall towers springing up around Khotachiwadi. The city’s other heritage precincts most vulnerable to this threat are Kalabadevi, Bhuleshwar and Girgaum, home to a maze of listed Gothic structures.

“To avoid any more exploitation of these structures, MHCC must write to the government expressing its displeasure at the way these redevelopment activities are affecting the character of the heritage structures,” added Dwivedi.