By Elton Gomes
At the UNESCO world heritage meet in Bahrain, it has been announced that
Mumbai’s Victorian and art deco buildings have been inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site on Friday. The status was given at the UNESCO world heritage meet in Bahrain to the heritage enclave located in the heart of South Mumbai. The buildings comprise an urban ensemble on either side of the Fort Precinct and Marine Drive Precinct.
The property consists of a 19th-century collection of Victorian buildings and 20th-century art deco buildings. Other structures that have acquired the heritage tag include: the row of public buildings of the High Court, Mumbai University, Old Secretariat, National Gallery of Modern Art, Elphinstone College, David Sassoon Library, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, Western Railways Headquarters, Maharashtra Police Headquarters to the east of Oval Maidan, the first row of Backbay Reclamation scheme, the Cricket Club of India, Ram Mahal, iconic cinema halls of Eros and Regal, and the first row of buildings along Marine Drive.
Together, this cluster of buildings embody the 200 years that saw Mumbai transition from a small coastal land into an important colonial city during the British Empire.
Conservation architect Abha Narain Lambah put together the three-volume nomination dossier that consisted of over 1,500 pages of historical narrative, maps, drawings, and notes on each of the 94 buildings. While preparing the dossier, Lambah stresses that she received sufficient support from various citizens’ groups from the precinct.
Lambah reiterated the fact that these ancient buildings are not dead yet, “These historic buildings are unique because they’re not dead monuments but active public buildings in use as courts, libraries and cinema halls,” as reported by the Hindustan Times. She added that the acquisition of the heritage tag will enhance tourism, “It also positions Mumbai high on the global map of financial and cultural destinations and will translate into increased cultural tourism in Maharashtra.”
Pankaj Joshi, executive director of the Urban Design Research Institute, an independent think tank, told the Hindustan Times,“This recognition might prompt a substantially larger impetus to conservation of sites of cultural and heritage significance. They can now get funding not just from the state but also from international agencies.”
The Victorian buildings in Mumbai are the third site in the city to acquire the heritage tag. The Elephanta Caves and the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus have already been inscribed as heritage structures. With a total of five heritage sites, Maharashtra now has more heritage structures than any other state in India.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius.
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