In a fresh effort to save the Kalas Mahal, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa has ordered the constitution of a technical committee to study the stability of the building, which was ravaged in a fire in the early hours of Monday.
Headed by former Dean (Civil Engineering) of the Anna University A.R. Santhakumar, the committee includes Engineer-in-Chief of the Public Works Department (Buildings) R. Gopalakrishnan and C. Palanivelu, Chief Planner of the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA), who is also the convener of the CMDA's heritage committee.
The committee will study different options. It will examine whether the heritage building can be restored. Else, it will suggest alternative measures. The committee inspected the building on Thursday.
The Chief Minister's intervention came after Public Works Department Minister K.V. Ramalingam stated that the building was not sturdy and needed to be pulled down. Mr. Ramalingam told The Hindu that the PWD team that inspected the structure on Thursday will submit a report in two or three days detailing the cause of the fire and the extent of damage.
An expert who was part of the team said the inspection was arranged at short notice to assess how the interiors had collapsed because of the fire.
“It is difficult to say now whether the building can be restored. Further tests to check the residual strength need to be carried out,” he said. Among the options being considered is retaining at least the façade of the building, if full restoration was not possible.
Historian S. Muthiah said the building must be saved if possible. “I recommend that an objective committee comprising structural engineers from the IITs should be formed to inspect the building,” he said.
“This is to determine if the building is structurally sound and restore what is left of the building as best as possible.”
Mr. Muthiah also recommended that other structures such as Humayun Mahal and Chisholm's Tower, which forms part of Chepauk Palace should be restored immediately.