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Heritage structures under threat

Last updated: 25 February, 2011

OFFICIAL APATHY

Despite the city being selected for the ambitious JNNURM scheme due to its heritage status, the apathy of the government seems to be dragging its feet in passing the ‘Heritage Conservation Act’, writes Shyam Sundar Vattam

The reason why Mysore has been selected by the Union Government for the ambitious Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JnNURM) scheme is that it's a heritage city.

But the city's heritage structures are facing danger due to rapid urbanisation and unchecked growth by the authorities concerned. Already, umpteen numbers of modern structures have come up in and around those heritage structures and they have spoiled the beauty of monuments. However, the Mysore City Corporation (MCC) is not in a position to deny permission due to absence of heritage law.

More than three years ago, the MCC submitted a detailed proposal to the Department of Heritage, Bangalore requesting it to frame rules and regulations to protect and conserve the heritage monuments in the city.


The Department concerned has identified over 200 structures as heritage buildings but not notified till date. The government is dragging its feet and seems to be not interested in passing the Heritage Conservation Act. Recently, a reputed builder approached the MCC seeking permission to build a multi-storeyed building near a heritage monument.
When the corporation declined permission the builder moved high court.

During hearing, the authorities concerned had a tough time in defending their decision.
They had no absolutely ground due to delay in framing rules by the government. This problem would not have cropped up had the government approved the law.

Responsibility
The responsibility is on the Department of Town Planning in Bangalore to approve the rules and by-laws and forward the same to the Government for its assent.
Already, a number of modern ugly structures have come up in the close vicinity of the heritage monuments. And, many more are in the pipeline.

The MCC has been waiting patiently that the government would enact the law.
The heritage structures were sandwiched between modern structures in most part of the city. The best instance is the famous Jagan Mohan Palace. This historic palace is already covered by hi-rising buildings on all directions.

Days are not far off when tourists have to go in search of this palace amidst modern building.
Such a situation would not have come if the government passed the law immediately after it was submitted by the department concerned.
The soul of the Mysore City is the heritage monuments and without them the development of tourism is not possible. The cities like Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Jaipur and Delhi have already implemented laws that would restrict construction of modern buildings in the vicinity of the heritage structures.
But the question here is why the State government is taking its own sweet time to pass this law. In fact, no body would raise any objection if the law comes up for discussion.

Inordinate delays
On the one hand the government talks in length the promotion of tourism and protection of historical monuments and on the other hand it makes inordinate delay in passing the heritage protection law. The fear, according to a senior official of MCC, is that Mysore is witnessing rapid growth all over the city and it should have the Act in place to prevent modern constructions near the heritage monuments.
Already, the mobile towers are erected all over the city including in the close vicinity of those monuments and spoiled the beauty.

Changes
A few years ago, people used to enjoy a panoramic view of the city from the Durbar Hall of the Amba Vilas Palace. Now what they will see is all ugly structures and rows of apartments.

They have completely covered the view of the historic building. The MCC cannot be blamed for this as the responsibility first lies on the State government. Without legal backup the MCC is not in a position to reject any permission sought by individuals or builders to construct commercial complexes and apartments near the heritage structures.
Due to lack of vision, the MCC gave permission for the construction of a commercial complex at Makkaji Chowk situated in the heart of the city.

Officerspeak

“Of late, we have not taken up any construction that has marred the beauty of heritage structures”, says K S Raykar, commissioner of Mysore City Corporation.
He told City Herald that the proposed multi-level underground parking facility on the premises of Rangacharlu Pura Bhavana (Town Hall) is not a threat to the heritage structure at all.

A memorandum of Understanding (MoU) is signed with the UNESCO, India for assisting conservation and protection of heritage monuments. The UNESCO will be setting up its branch under the name ‘Heritage City Network’ in the city. Now the onus is on the government to enact law to protect 200 plus heritage monuments in the city.
The MCC on its own has taken up conservation of Thotappa Bungalow where former President of India, Dr S Radhakrishnan stayed and also Niranjan Mutt where Swamy Vivekananda stayed. The corporation is spending money from its coffers for this purpose, he added.

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