Heritage Conservation Norms Flouted in Fort Kochi
By K R Ranjith | ENS | Published: 19th December 2015 03:19 AM |
KOCHI: Despite the efforts to conserve the heritage beauty of Fort Kochi, building renovation and additions are taking place across the zone violating the spirit of heritage conservation norms, allegedly with the connivance of the authorities. Just within 100 metres radius of the zonal office of Kochi Corporation in Fort Kochi, building rules as per the Art and Heritage Commission norms are flouted.
Social activists in the area allege that even buildings under the city corporation are being renovated violating the spirit of heritage conservation. In the absence of an enforcing mechanism, building materials that should be shunned in a zone that still preserve the memories of the earliest European settlement in the country are rampantly used. “A look around the town will be very depressing,” said former mayor K J Sohan, who is an ardent heritage conservationist.
“Materials like modern tiles, glass, tin and metal roofing are being used widely. And even public building are renovated against the spirit of heritage conservation,” he added.
It is mandatory to get prior approval for building plan and plan for renovating the existing structure from the Corporation, district town planner and then from the Art and Heritage Commission that looks into the preservation of heritage norms in the area.
But these no-objection certficates are apparently easier to violate than getting through the maze of paperworks.
They once get approval for a specific plan that strictly adhere to the norms. And then simply ignore them. “The most glaring example is a six-storied building overlooking the Calvathy jetty right in the heart of Fort Kochi. The Corporation stalled the construction after the Art and Heritage Commision was about to take action,” said Sohan.
The former counsilor also objected to the renovation of Corporation’s boat jetty building at Fort Kochi. “No efforts are taken to give a heritage character of the town and huge glass panels are being used in the construction,” he pointed out.
People come here to enjoy the heritage beauty of the town. They pay above Rs 10,000 as room rent per night just because of the heritage value. And the government gets 22 per cent as luxury tax.
They are charging big for the heritage value, but it is saddening that not many are interested in preserving the heritage, Sohan pointed out. Even in the Princess Street one can see modern flashy tiles replacing the old plastered walls that have the ancient charm. Again, new additions are coming up in steel and mortar.
The roofs get ‘stealthily’ replaced with tin sheets, without anybody noticing them! Even big resorts have replaced the roofing tiles with tin sheet, a real turnoff among centuries-old heritage bungalows.
Shiny Mathew, Town Planning Standing Committee chairperson, assured that the Corporation will look into the alleged violations of the norms of construction.
“So far, I have not received any complaints regarding the violations of norms in the heritage zone,” Fort Kochi Sub Collector S Suhas said referring to the alleged flouting of norms in the construction in the Princess Street. He assured action taken if he received complaints regarding the same.
The heritage trail
■ Construction and renovation of buildings in the Heritage Zone first submitted to the City Corporation. It goes to Chief Town Planner and after the Art and Heritage Commission nod, the Corporation gives approval.
■ Construction or renovation within 300 metres of centrally protected monuments needs prior NOC from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
■ The area under the Heritage Zone is not clearly specified. However, Kerala Tourism (Conservation and Preservation of Areas) Act has laid down clear guidelines for construction and renovation in each street of Fort Kochi. A look around the town will be very depressing. Materials like modern tiles, glass, tin and metal roofing are being used widely. And even public building are renovated against the spirit of heritage conservation K J Sohan, Heritage Conservationist