Efforts to conserve Bazaar Road get a boost

KOCHI, MARCH 24. The move to conserve Bazaar Road at Mattanchery has drawn support from various quarters. The latest is the support from Patricia Fels, an architect from the U.S.

Ms. Fels has been involved in efforts for conservation of a heritage village in Malaysia. "This city, Penang, too had a British and Dutch colonial history. We did an inventory of the entire city and survey and formed guidelines for its conservation," said Ms. Fels.

She visited Fort Kochi along with her husband, Don Fels, recently. During her stay, she visited the Bazaar and did some research. "It will be a mistake to switch over to tourism mode. The Bazaar should continue as a merchandise area. The trade could be revitalised, may be a new form of trade," Ms. Fels said, adding that the low-income group and vendors associated with the street should be made part of the conservation process.

Those involved in conservation works do not support this argument. "Too much of public participation will not work in heritage conservation. It has to be treated in totality and any compromise in the implementation process will affect the final result," said K.J. Sohan, convener of Kerala chapter of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) and Kochi Corporation councillor.

It is not the lack of projects, but the will to implement them that hampers the conservation of Mattanchery Bazaar, which could be converted as a `living museum' showcasing the multiple ethnic presence in the region.

INTACH project

The INTACH had prepared a project for conservation of the region. But nothing has come out of it. "What we need is an integrated conservation project for Fort Kochi and Mattanchery. This will also need to address the issue of slums in the region, sanitation and other living facilities," said Mr. Sohan.

Some years back, the Housing and Urban Development Corporation (HUDCO) had held a seminar on taking up conservation projects at Kochi, Jaipur, Delhi and Pune, of which Pune backed out.

The decision was to undertake a study for revitalisation of heritage in the selected cities, but the project did not take off, as it lacked to generate support from the local administration, Mr. Sohan said.

There are also apprehension from some quarters on clubbing heritage conservation efforts at Mattanchery and Fort Kochi. "Steps to conserve colonial history at Fort Kochi will not be effective for the original history of the land," said M. Iqbal, another Corporation councillor from West Kochi.

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