Beautification, Neglect Killing Cst Building

Beautification, Neglect Killing Cst Building

An Article in Mumbai Mirror

Beautification, neglect killing CST building, say conservationists
By Rajendra B Aklekar, Mumbai Mirror | Nov 30, 2014, 12.00 AM IST

From hammering bulb frames into heritage structure's walls to quick-fix repairs and using broken masonry as door stoppers, CR has disregarded conservation and upkeep guidelines.

The next time you stop to admire the Mumbai CST building after dark, spare a thought for the fact that the colourful LED lighting bathing the 126-year-old UNESCO world heritage site was put in place by hammering more than 500 large bulb frames into the walls - damage that conservationists say is irreparable.

The damage caused by the bulb frames to the facade is one among many such that the heritage building is suffering from, thanks to neglect and apathy shown by the Central Railway which is entrusted with its maintenance.

Last week, a second-floor balcony near the CR general manager's office was repaired with concrete blocks with scant regard for the carefully framed upkeep guidelines. A heritage window on the first sports a cracked beam, while pieces of masonry broken off from the arched design on the ground floor are being used as door stoppers.

These are just a few examples of how CR has been slowly killing the Victorian Gothic heritage building meticulously built over 10 years, allege city architects and conservationists who say much of the damage is irreparable.

"There seem to be maintenance and structural issues that need proper investigation. The LED lighting is misleading as the building doesn't seem to be in the pink of health," says renowned conservation architect Vikas Dilawari.

"There have been several violations. According to the world heritage convention, CR is supposed to set up a committee to monitor conservation. Another committee to keep the buffer zone around the building free of any encroachment, which would have all stakeholders including the civic and police chiefs as members is yet to be formed," said Tasneem Zakaria Mehta, vice chairman, Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH).

However, a CR spokesperson said the monitoring committee is already in place and keeps a tab on conservation activities.

In 2003, CR was assisted by INTACH (Mumbai) in compiling a dossier on the building to get listed as a world heritage site. "Everyone loves the LED-lit facade, but do people know that hundreds of bulbs have been hammered into the walls, bleeding it to death slowly?" said conservationist Rahul Chemburkar.

Mukesh Nigam, CR divisional manager (Mumbai), said, "There have been issues, but there are limitations too. Two parapets were broken, and it was unsafe to leave them like that. Artisans were not immediately available and hence we fixed them with local help. We have taken good care of certain parts of the building, and are working on a comprehensive plan to improve the rest. The condition was worse last year."

He added, "LED lighting is a combined effort of the tourism ministry and CR.A consultant is guiding the project to ensure minimal damage."