With increased instances of violation of building rules being reported from the Fort Kochi heritage zone, the Kochi Corporation is planning to approach the government to curb the practice.

According to a primary estimate, there are 126 unauthorised constructions in the heritage zone alone. The issue of violation of the heritage zone guidelines came up at a discussion on conserving the heritage structures of the city.

Incidentally, the Town Planning Department of the Kochi Corporation, which is to consider all applications for building constructions, said that only 10-15 applications from the zone came up before it during the last five years. Most of the constructions took place before the present council come to power, said E.M. Sunilkumar, chairman of the committee.

Violations are rampant in the area between the St. Francis Church and Vasco da Gama Square. Some buildings have come up near the heritage structures dating back to the Portuguese period. They stand out in complete contrast with the aesthetics of the heritage ambience of the area, he said.

The Town Planning Committee, which is to meet on June 30, will discuss the issue. A meeting of the heritage conservation experts will be convened to discuss the issue, he said.

One of the major hurdles in protecting the heritage structures and enforcing the guidelines is that the civic authority does not possess the complete list of buildings that have heritage value. The list available with the authorities needs to be updated before embarking on a conservation drive, he said.

Conservation efforts

The support of the State government is required for bringing in an effective mechanism to curb violations. The issue of extending support to the owners of the heritage structures for conserving and protecting them also needs to be addressed, Mr. Sunilkumar said.

Incidentally, the Kochi Corporation had earlier drawn up a draft heritage conservation bylaw for Kochi during the period of the previous Corporation council. Though the council approved the bylaw, the authorities failed to notify it.

The absence of a legal framework for managing the heritage structures and protecting the heritage areas should be blamed for the present state of affairs, said a heritage expert.

The Centre for Heritage Environment and Development of the Kochi Corporation has decided to validate the draft bylaw and bring in necessary amendments.

The executive committee meeting of the Centre, which was held last week, entrusted the task to Town Planning officer of the Kochi Corporation.

The listing of the heritage buildings will also be undertaken, a member of the committee said.

The earlier proposals were more of general in nature. It needs to be updated taking into account the changes that have taken place in the city over the years.

Moreover, the legislation needs to be re-drafted to address the specific issues of Kochi, he said.

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