Click here for more...

(ARCHIVE) Vol. XIX No. 22, march 1-15, 2010
One small step towards preserving heritage
(By a Special Correspondent)

One small step has been taken by the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) towards getting regulations in place to protect the city’s wealth of built heritage. Responding to a High Court instruction to the Government in December to set up within three months a Heritage Conservation Committee to protect heritage building in the State, the CMDA has submitted to Government a list of those it feels should be members of the Heritage Conservation Committee. If Government approves the list, it will be presented to the High Court before the end of March.

Will the Heritage Conservation Committee also look at natural heritage (as seen in V.I. Karthik’s picture) as well as cultural heritage?

The list prepared by the CMDA, Madras Musings understands, was read out recently at the second meeting of the Second Master Plan Land Use and Environment Committee (Heritage Wing) – which was held nearly 15 months after the first meeting – and comprised in its entirety ex-officio members, virtually all of them representing Government Departments and institutions. With Government having for nearly 20 years dragged its feet on a Heritage Act/Regulations, how enthusiastic such a government- oriented committee will be in impartially pushing heritage conservation projects will remain a matter of major concern for those who have campaigned for heritage conservation for over 25 years. But a Committee which will at least compile an official list of heritage buildings, starting with Chennai and Greater Chennai and then taking in the districts one by one, is better than none, for such a list would at least make local authorities think twice before sanctioning demolition orders.

Judging from what this correspondent has heard about that recent meeting held by the CMDA, the Authority has its own views on how to go about listing heritage buildings on historical, architectural and/or cultural grounds and this would appear to involve a marking system not unlike the one in vogue in our educational institutions. While the merits or otherwise of such a numerical system can be discussed endlessly, what strikes this correspondent is that the system to be evolved should have been by the still-to-be- appointed Heritage Conser vation Committee and not by the CMDA presenting it something it had already worked out as the best way for evaluating buildings for a heritage list.

This correspondent also understands that non-governmental members present at this CMDA meeting had wondered why a beginning could not be made by taking a list prepared by the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage – Tamil Nadu Chapter some years ago as a starting point. Previous Government groups that had met for the same purpose over the years were prepared to accept that 180-building list prepared after an INTACH-TN survey and the 500 other buildings it had subsequently listed. It was also pointed out that if the INTACH-TN list was not favoured, perhaps Government might like to look at, as a starting point, the nearly 800-building list prepared by the Justice E. Padmanabhan Committee “Constituted (in 2008) for Identifying and Enumerating Places of Historical Importance/Aesthetic Value/Popular Place of Worship in and around the City of Chennai.”

If built heritage conservation is to get off the ground at the earliest, taking a giant step after the first small one that has been taken, then, perhaps, in the view of this correspondent, the High Court would do well to suggest that the Heritage Conservation Committee presented to it should take the Justice Padma nabhan Committee list (detailed in its report) as a starting point for its conservation activities, instead of ditheringly rediscovering the city’s heritage wealth with numerical assessments.


In this issue

One small step towards preserving heritage
Can’t we leave natural heritage alone?
Mall-grazing in Chennai
A legend in his lifetime
Monotonous post-match presentations
Historic Residences of Chennai - 37
Other stories

Our Regulars

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


Back to current issue...