The restoration work currently under way on the more than 150-year-old heritage edifice in Lalbagh Botanical Gardens could kick up a controversy. For, it is now alleged that the work is being executed with little regard to conservation.
The 1856 structure, that was built to serve as the residence of the then Superintendent of Lalbagh Gardens, is currently used to house a library that has some very rare books and photographs in its collection.
According to sources in the Horticulture Department, the conservation and restoration work was initiated through a PWD contractor about a week ago, as the building walls had become weak and had developed cracks under spells of heavy rain in the last couple of years. Even the roof was leaking, which damaged some rare books a couple of years ago, sources said.
Sources also said that Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) was also involved in the restoration work. The problem with the restoration, however, appears that INTACH, which gave technical advice to the department some time ago on how the structure has to be restored and conserved, was neither involved in tendering process nor during execution.
“We contributed to the project with the initial reports that we prepared for restoration. However, INTACH has not been involved in any stage of tendering, work order and work execution. Though we wish to be part of restoring heritage structures, currently we are not involved,” an INTACH spokesperson clarified.
A conservation architect in the know of things said that it is difficult to execute the work without the knowledge on conservation and heritage or without a background in it. The architect said: “The present restoration work does not at all confirm to the international practises of conservation of heritage structure,” the member said.
It is learnt that INTACH had been working on this project that envisages restoration of three heritage buildings in Lalbagh, including Superintendent’s residence, Krumbiegel Hall and Aquarium, for the past two years.