Over 10% of heritage buildings dilapidated in Chennai – The Hindu

Chennai News

Heritage protection needs multiple strategies and it requires both legislative protection as well as financial incentive, say experts

Heritage protection needs multiple strategies and it requires both legislative protection as well as financial incentive, say experts

Over 10% of heritage buildings in Chennai Metropolitan Area are dilapidated, according to estimates by officials of the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA).

As part of the World Heritage Day events on Monday, various agencies are expected to review the work on restoration of heritage buildings this week. The High Court had estimated more than 450 heritage buildings, including public and private structures, in the metropolitan area and the CMDA started documentation of the heritage buildings 12 years ago. But restoration of heritage buildings owned by private agencies have not taken off in various parts of the city because of lack of proper policy and programmes for heritage conservation. 

“Every year work on restoration of around 10 heritage buildings are cleared by the CMDA,” said an official. Loyola College is among the premises currently being restored after clearance from the CMDA Heritage Conservation Committee a few years ago and restoration work of the facade of the main building has been completed.

“Traditional artisans and skilled workers in various villages of Tamil Nadu were mobilised for the restoration of Loyola College. This is one of the most prestigious conservation projects, involving a basic survey of the building followed by detailed documentation, analysis and conservation solutions proposed by our team of experts,” said an architect of Edwin Construction which has been involved in the restoration project for several years.

Traditional methods of plastering using original mortar, composed of a mixture of country chicken eggs, jaggery and myrobalan, treatment of minor cracks using lime mortar and repair of the beams of the original Madras terrace roof have been followed. The roof has also been carefully restored by using traditionally manufactured Mangalore tiles. The authenticity of the building has been maintained with the help of a multi-disciplinary task force combined with the expertise of traditional artisans, he said. 

Many private buildings have not been maintained properly on various heritage premises of the metropolitan area because of a lack of financial incentive to restore the buildings, CMDA officials said. 

Historian V.Sriram said: “The principal challenge to heritage conservation is that there is no policy as of now on what needs to be done as far as heritage conservation is concerned. The definition of what constitutes heritage is very ad hoc.”

“One government thinks something is a heritage. The other government does not think it is heritage. Even after designating something as heritage, there are no guidelines on how the preservation of the buildings can be done,” he rues.

He, however, states that the government has done some very good conservation activity. “For instance in the Chepauk Palace and Ripon Buildings restoration, there have been some serious efforts. But they have not been consistently doing it across the city. For instance, the Archeological Survey’s own buildings are collapsing in the Fort,” said Mr.Sriram.
Greater Chennai Corporation Commissioner Gagandeep Singh Bedi said the civic body would complete restoration of three heritage buildings including Ripon Buildings, Victoria Public Hall and Maadi Poonga. “Victoria Public Hall will be restored in one year,” he assured.
A.Srivatsan, professor at CEPT University, said heritage protection needs multiple strategies and it requires both legislative protection as well as financial incentive. “Since the government is one of the largest owners of heritage buildings a clear policy and programme has to be rolled out,” he said.

Experts stress the need for Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) pertaining to heritage building restoration and combining the TDR with legislation. Even after the Tamil Nadu Heritage Protection Act was passed following the West Bengal model, it has not been implemented. Legally, protection of a heritage building remains a challenge in the metropolitan area. The heritage conservation committee has also become defunct. The proposal for a heritage repair fund has also not been implemented, sources in the CMDA said.

Source: https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/over-10-of-heritage-buildings-dilapidated-in-chennai/article65329449.ece