Who will Save the City’s Charming Old Structures?

Four months after the government promised to set up a commission to protect heritage buildings, nothing has moved. Bureaucrats don\'t know whose job it is

Published: 05th February 2015 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 04th February 2015 11:54 PM   |  A+A-

Who-will

QUEEN’S ROAD: Heritage lovers are upset that the state government’s promise to form a commission to protect beautiful old buildings remains unfulfilled.

The government had made the promise in October 2014, in the wake of an agitation to save Balabrooie Guest House, on Palace Road, from demolition.

Soon after the government announced it would convert the structure into a clubhouse for politicians, outraged citizens demanded that the plan be dropped.

The government relented and said Balabrooie, over a hundred years old, would not be razed. However, the government has done nothing about its assurance to establish a heritage building commission.

Architect V Naresh Narasimhan, who spearheaded the movement through the Save Balabrooie Committee, said heritage enthusiasts would soon meet Chief Minister Siddaramaiah.

“The government feels the protection of heritage buildings is not a priority. They are more concerned about poverty alleviation and other urgent issues. But development must also take into account the fate of old buildings,” he said.

Theatre personality Prakash Belawadi, who also played a major role in the Balabrooie committee, said the government must be pressured into passing a heritage building protection law.

“It is not that the government is hostile towards the city. They don’t care, which is equally bad,” he said.

He said most government officials were not from the city or even from Karnataka, and lacked initiative.

Belawadi called for the drawing up of an inventory of heritage spaces in the city, followed by a public-government consultation.

Similarly, Suresh Moona, historian and director of the Association for Reviving Awareness about Monuments of Bangalore Heritage (Aarambh), is concerned heritage buildings are being razed every day.

“It is important to form a controlling body, headed by a commissioner with adjudicative powers. The body must be apolitical. There is no use otherwise,” he told City Express.

He believes the government promised to pass a heritage protection law just to get the Balabrooie activists off its back. “I feel it was just an eye-wash,” he said.

When contacted, commissioner of the Department of Archeology, Museums and Heritage C G Betsurmath, said, “After the Balabrooie protest in Bengaluru, we received a letter from the government about forming a commission. However, according to the Town and Country Planning Act, the Urban Development Authority is supposed to handle heritage structures. Once we are clear about whose responsibility it is to form the commission, things will fall into place.”

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