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Saving sentinels from decay

The annual INTACH heritage awards being announced today (World Heritage Day) provide the much-needed fillip to conservation activities. However, concerted efforts on the part of the Government in tandem with private initiatives will give a further boost, writes RADHIKA RAJAMANI.

INTRIGUING NAME: Saleema Khatoon Mosque

WOULD YOU like to see the Charminar covered with soot? Or the Golconda Fort filled with tenements or the world-famous Taj Mahal in yellow rather than white and other monuments in the city and the country overwritten with graffiti? This would be the scene a few decades hence if adequate steps are not taken for their preservation.

The INTACH in Hyderabad has instituted Heritage Awards for historic buildings and precincts. For the past six years, it has been giving these awards to private and public buildings. The awards for this year are being announced today.

A total of 24 buildings and precincts have been shortlisted from several nominations for six awards. Located across various areas of the twin cities, these buildings include Charkaman near Charminar, Charminar, EME Faculty of Electronics (Secunderabad), Arts College (Osmania University), Wesley Church (Secunderabad), Ibrahim Manzil (now Le Palais Royale, Secunderabad), Ramgopalpet (formerly James Street) Police Station, Afzal Mahal (Chowmohalla Palace), Musaburj (Golconda Fort), Malani Residence (Begumpet), Rangbagh (Nanakramguda, off Bombay highway), All Saints Church (Trimulgherry), Gun rock water tank (Secunderabad), RTA office (Somajiguda), Lotus Pond (Jubilee Hills), Saleema Khatoon Mosque (Narayanguda), Gowliguda Bus Depot, Asafia Library (Afzal Gunj), Osman Cottage (Purani Haveli), Clock Tower (Fateh Maidan), Health Museum (Public gardens), Baitul Ashraf (near Niloufer Hospital), Chacha Nehru park (Masab Tank), Dargah Hussain Shah Wali (old Mumbai road).

It is evident from the above that natural and manmade heritage under public (government) and private ownership qualify for nomination on the basis of different criteria. The lucky six are eventually chosen through a rigorous process. Such awards help in the preservation of historic structures which are the pride of the State.

In a city where modernisation has made swift inroads, where rocks are being blasted for concrete constructions and encroachments eat into historical spaces, the state of heritage is in peril.

ELEGANT AMBIENCE: RTA office, Somajiguda

Some efforts, albeit sporadic, are made to ensure conservation.

Listing of buildings as heritage structures (on the lines of what the Bombay Environmental Action group has done in Mumbai) acts as a deterrent in demolition.

About 137 such buildings and 16 precincts and rock formations have been notified by the Hyderabad Urban Development Authority (HUDA) to ensure they cannot be damaged or tinkered with without the permission of HUDA and Heritage Conservation Committee (constituted by the government to advise HUDA and government on conservation).

A heritage fund (with a grant of Rs. 50 lakhs from the government as corpus fund) which has been constituted solicits contributions from citizens to swell the corpus. Restoration efforts spearheaded by INTACH are underway in some monuments.

There is talk of conservation of the Paigah tombs and removal of encroachments around Chowmohalla Palace. Pedestrianisation of Charminar has become mere rhetoric.

PRAY IN TRANQUILLITY: All Saints Church, Trimulgherry

There is need to rise and do more to conserve before irreparable damage is done to these treasures.

A concerted effort by people through education and awareness is paramount. Otherwise, Golconda, Charminar and monuments like the Taj will go into the annals of history.

And one would have to indulge only in nostalgia to recreate the grandeur of these silent sentinels of bygone eras.

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