Lucknow: Chhota Imambara losing paint and plaster
The agencies pass the buck on each other, as HAT officials blame ASI for not maintaining the centrally protected structure, while the ASI officials accuse HAT of causing irreversible damage to the structure by carrying out restoration work using cement instead of permissible material like surkhi, mortar and lime.Updated: Jun 26, 2017 12:26 IST
The 179-year-old Chhota Imambara is gradually falling into decay with each passing day, but the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and Hussainabad and Allied Trust (HAT), responsible for its upkeep, are sunk in sanguine slumber.
Moreover, the agencies pass the buck on each other, as HAT officials blame ASI for not maintaining the centrally protected structure, while the ASI officials accuse HAT of causing irreversible damage to the structure by carrying out restoration work using cement instead of permissible material like surkhi, mortar and lime.
Amidst this blame game, the ‘side affects’ of cement plaster on the edifice’s exteriors have started becoming visible on its interiors, which were the finest compared to other Imambaras. Now, the paint and plaster are falling off, revealing the red lakhauri bricks. Damp in the walls is eating away the beautiful stucco work and floral designs, the USP that makes the structure distinct from others.
If experts of IIT-Kanpur’s civil engineering department are to be believed, the dampness is due to the cement plaster that is preserving moisture in excess. They expect things to go worse in the rainy season. “Original plaster of lime and surkhi has many qualities. Of the many, one is its airy nature that enables the structure to breathe or in other words retain or release excessive moisture. But this silent feature lacks in the cement plaster,” said an expert.
Nasir Naqvi, officer on special duty (OSD) HAT said, “As per the court’s order, ASI has to ensure restoration of Chhota Imambara, but it is yet to be followed”.
The court’s order came in 2015, after a heritage activist S Mohammed Haider moved an application in a pending PIL of 2013, for restraining the use of cement that was then being used in the restoration work (being carried out by HAT) in Chhota Imambara.
On finding the petitioner’s apprehension genuine, the court had blamed HAT for causing ‘irreversible damage’ to the structure and ordered immediate closure of the work. It had also directed ASI’s Lucknow Circle to assess the damage to the monument and carry out proper restoration.
“The lack of co-ordination among the ASI and HAT are adding to the damage. The deplorable state of Chhota Imambara is purely due to ill-effects of the cement plaster that HAT carried out on the outer portion of the structure that caused irreparable damage,” said S Mohammed Haider.
HAT officials said the ASI surveyed the structure but did not take up restoration. “The structure’s restoration that was the part of court’s order, is yet to be carried out by ASI,” said Nasir Naqvi, OSD, HAT.
However, the ASI says that the damage to the structure is irreparable.
The crumbling Chhota Imambara has also moved the direct descendants of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, who are more than willing to come down to Lucknow to meet the UP chief minister, requesting his intervention in saving the heritage structure.
“My heart bleeds every time I hear something bad about the crumbling monuments in the state capital, ,” said Asif Ali Mirza, direct descendant of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, the last king of Awadh.
Mirza lives in Metiaburz, Kolkata, the place where Wajid Ali Shah spent his life after he was exiled on February 7, 1856.