Click here for more...

(ARCHIVE) Vol. XVIII No. 25, april 16-30, 2009
Ahmedabad gets
heritage regulations
(By A Special Correspondent)

Heritage enthusiasts of Ahmedabad have been successful in getting regulations enacted in 2008 to protect the heritage, both built and natural, of the Ahmedabad Urban ­Development Authority area.

At last, Heritage Committee
for Aurangabad

INTACH (Aurangabad Chapter) had in 2000 prepared a list of 154 buildings after the Maha­rashtra Government had ­issued a statutory directive to several ­Municipal Corporations, ­including the Auran­gabad Municipal Corporation, ­directing them to enact heritage regulations and to notify them. Relying on the September 2000 directive, in 2003 INTACH (Auranga­bad Chapter) filed a writ petition before the Aurangabad Bench of the Bombay High Court. The Court issued an order staying the demolition of any of the listed buildings and, more importantly, ­directed that a Heritage Committee be constituted within six months. The Court also directed that Heritage Regulations be drafted and approved by the Government to ensure that the buildings are conserved and that any development or modifications or changes in these buildings be as per the guidelines of the Heritage Committee.

In February 2004, the ­Municipal Commissioner framed the Heritage Regulations based on the Bombay Heritage Regulation. However, no Heritage Conservation Committee was consti­tuted.

In August 2007 there was a big step forward when the High Court directed the Heritage Committee, the Aurangabad ­Municipal Corporation and Maharashtra Government “to take effective steps expeditiously and to prepare final list of buildings/monuments/sites etc. which are entitled to protection of being heritage buildings or historical monuments in accordance with the provisions of the MRTP Act and Maharashtra Ancient Monuments, Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1960.” The High Court expressed a view that such an exercise would be completed within six months. This High Court order is a vital precedent. In March 2008 the Heritage Conservation Committee was appointed. – (Courtesy: INTACH)

The fifth largest city in India, known for its industry and commerce, Ahmedabad’s ancient history going back to 600 years is generally ignored. The city has a very rich heritage with a large number of mosques, Jain temples and secular structures. It has some of the finest examples of Islamic architecture in India and is considered to be one of the best places to study the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture. It has as many as 39 ASI protected monuments of which as many as 26 are in the Walled City – a high concentration for a single city, especially the Walled city, with its area of less than 600 hectares, which is famous for its “pols”. The word “pol” is derived from the Sanskrit word “pratoli” which means an entrance to an enclosed area. The pols are traditional groups of wooden houses, and havelis with winding streets that at intervals open out into small chowks. They have a common well, sometimes their own temples and gates, which would be shut at night.

The Bombay Environmental Action Group (BEAG) and the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (IN­TACH) were working together in this regard for several years.

Several of the key suggestions made by both had been incorporated in these regulations, including the following:

1. In addition to the built ­heritage, the regulations also cater to natural areas of scenic beauty, including (but not restricted to) sacred groves, hills, hillocks, water bodies, areas adjoining water bodies, open areas and wooded areas.

2. Natural heritage sites were classified as Grade I, which means that no construction is permissible on them.

3. It was stipulated that road widening should not affect listed heritage sites, whether they be buildings or natural sites. In addition, road widening should be such as to protect and not detract from heritage precincts.

4. Regardless of what was mentioned in the regulations, the Heritage Conservation Committee was given the powers to prevent demolition, reconstruction or alteration of a heritage building and even an unlisted building in a heritage precinct.

5. In order to maintain the skyline and preserve architectural harmony, it was stipulated that buildings, not just within heritage precincts but also in the vicinity of Grade I heritage sites (including natural heritage sites), should maintain the skyline and follow those ­architectural styles so as not to diminish or destroy the value, beauty or the view from the heritage precinct or the heritage site.

6. To protect heritage sites as a whole, it was stipulated that: “When a building or group of buildings or natural features is listed it would automatically mean, unless otherwise indicated, that the entire property including its compound subsidiary structures etc. form part of the list.” This would prevent incongruous construction coming up next to heritage buildings.

7. Going beyond heritage precincts and giving the Heritage Conservation Committee the powers of an Urban Arts Commission, the regulation specified that in order to preserve the beauty of heritage buildings or precincts, the Committee could specify that the exterior design and height of buildings should have their prior approval.

8. Any heritage list, in draft form and pending for approval, would also be deemed to be part of the heritage list for purposes of grant of development permissions. This would prevent heritage buildings being demolished in the interim period between preparation of the list and its sanction. This will help to save 10,000 listed buildings in the historic ‘Pols’ in the walled city which are being demolished at a very fast rate.

9. It was the duty of the owner of a heritage building to maintain and repair it and not that of the government, the municipality or other local bodies.

10. The listing criteria was included in the regulation. This made the regulation more comprehensive.

The heritage regulations apply not just to the area of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation but to the entire area of the Ahmedabad Urban Deve­lopment Authority which has an area of 1295 sq. km., which in addition to Ahmedabad includes several other municipalities.

An INTACH representation adds, since it is the Gujarat Government which has issued this notification, it sets a precedent to follow for other cities and towns in Gujarat. If need be, the High Court could be approached with a plea to issue directives to the Gujarat Government, the concerned Municipalities and other relevant authorities to prepare lists of heritage sites, both natural and man-made, and also to enact heritage regulations. More than one precedent exists, including the Bombay High Court Order of November 18, 1998 in
the case of Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani. (Courtesy: INTACH)


In this issue

CMDA ponders...
Ahmedabad gets...
A simple doctor...
Engaged in changing
Historic residences...
Other stories in this issue...

Our Regulars

Short 'N' Snappy
Our Readers Write
Quizzin' with Ram'nan
Dates for your Diary


Back to current issue...