Raj Nivas, Calve College, The Old Lighthouse & Aayi Mandapam are among 21 structures declared as Heritage Assets by the Pondicherry Government. Conservation and protection of these buildings could eventually lead to the Pondy Boulevard Town being listed as a Heritage City by UNESCO.
In a city that has always taken pride on its French legacy and unique Franco-Tamil architectural heritage, the collapse of the 144-year-old Marie building in November last year has led to Puducherry government’s decision to notify some of the city’s important buildings as heritage structures and announcing conservation measures.
The decision also comes after a spirited campaign by civil society groups such as the People for Pondicherry Heritage that demanded urgent government action on the heritage structures. To support the cause, a three-day festival was organized in February-March by People for Pondicherry Heritage, Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) and NGO PondyCAN, with support from the Department of Tourism, business establishments and locals from Puducherry.
Taking the first step towards putting in place a conservation protocol that is inter-disciplinary and suitably funded, the government recently issued a list of 21 structures that would be classified as heritage assets. The structures were reported as heritage assets based on the recommendations of the State Level Heritage Conservation and Advisory Committee (SLHAC).
The list comprises famous landmarks including the old Band Stand, Foyer du Soldat, Aayi Mandapam, old Light House, Pondicherry Museum building, old court building, Government Maternity Hospital, Raj Nivas, Calve College, Clock Towers (Grand Bazaar and Bussy Street), Soucilabai School and Le Café.
Ashok Panda, co-convenor of INTACH said that they along with the Public Works Department (PWD) have already started restoration of a few buildings. He also pointed out that the maintenance and upkeep of the heritage structures, which is a continuous requirement, will be with the government and INTACH will help the government in reusing the structures. Mr. Panda also added that the government should bring in legislation (a Heritage Act). If these initiatives are undertaken by the government, the Boulevard town can become a model heritage town and could subsequently qualify to be listed by UNESCO as Heritage city.
INTACH will also be requesting the government to inform private buildings in the list after consulting property owners so that they can be protected through the Comprehensive Development Plan or the Master plan being prepared by the government. An INTACH official said that the government could amend the Puducherry Town and Country Planning law of 1969 or pass fresh legislation to inform private building owners.
Once a building has been given heritage status in terms of architectural, archaeological and historical importance authorities will not be able to destroy the structure. Any modification or alteration can be carried out only after obtaining permission from the SLHAC.
Text: Amit Peter
Source: The Hindu