Over 10% of dilapidated heritage buildings in Chennai

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Heritage protection requires multiple strategies and requires both legislative protection and financial incentive, say experts

Heritage protection requires multiple strategies and requires both legislative protection and financial incentive, say experts

More than 10% of heritage buildings in the Chennai metropolitan area are dilapidated, according to estimates by officials from the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA).

As part of Monday’s World Heritage Day events, various agencies are expected to review restoration work on heritage buildings this week. The High Court had assessed over 450 heritage buildings, including public and private structures, in the metropolitan area and the CMDA began documenting heritage buildings 12 years ago. But the restoration of heritage buildings owned by private agencies has not taken off in various parts of the city due to the lack of proper policies and programs for heritage conservation.

“Each year, restoration works of about 10 heritage buildings are authorized by the CMDA,” an official said. Loyola College is part of the premises being restored after the authorization of the Heritage Conservation Committee of the CMDA a few years ago and the restoration work on the facade of the main building has been completed.

“Traditional artisans and skilled laborers from various villages in Tamil Nadu have been mobilized for the restoration of Loyola College. This is one of the most prestigious conservation projects, involving a baseline survey of the building followed by detailed documentation, analysis and conservation solutions proposed by our team of experts,” said an architect from Edwin Construction who participated in the restoration project for several years. years.

The traditional methods of original mortar rendering, consisting of a mixture of country hen’s eggs, jaggery and myrobalan, the treatment of minor cracks with lime mortar and the repair of the roof beams of the terrace of origin in Madras were followed. The roof has also been carefully restored using traditionally made Mangalore tiles. The authenticity of the building has been maintained with the help of a multidisciplinary working group combined with the expertise of traditional craftsmen, he said.

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

Historian V.Sriram said, “The main challenge in heritage conservation is that there is no policy at present on what should be done in heritage conservation. The definition of what constitutes heritage is very specific.

“A government thinks something is a legacy. The other government doesn’t think it’s heritage. Even after designating something as heritage, there are no guidelines on how the preservation of buildings can be done,” he laments.

However, he states that the government has done very good conservation activities. “For example, in the restoration of the Chepauk Palace and the Ripon buildings, serious efforts have been made. But they don’t do it consistently across the city. For example, the Archaeological Survey’s own buildings are collapsing in the fort,” Mr Sriram said. Greater Chennai Corporation Commissioner Gagandeep Singh Bedi said the civic body will complete the restoration of three heritage buildings including Ripon Buildings, Victoria Public Hall and Maadi Poonga. “Victoria Public Hall will be restored in a year,” he said. A.Srivatsan, a professor at CEPT University, said heritage protection requires multiple strategies and requires both legislative protection and financial incentive. “As the government is one of the largest owners of heritage buildings, a clear policy and program must be in place,” he said.

Experts stress the need for a transfer of development rights (TDR) regarding the restoration of heritage buildings and to combine the TDR with legislation. Even after the adoption of the Tamil Nadu Heritage Protection Act modeled on West Bengal, it has not been implemented. Legally, the protection of a heritage building remains a challenge in the metropolitan area. The Heritage Conservation Committee has also disappeared. The proposal for a heritage repair fund has also not been implemented, sources told the CMDA.

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