Sunday, June 25, 2017

Illegal constructions threaten Walled City legacy

Times of India: Ahmedabad: Sunday, June 25, 2017.
The walled city will soon lose some of its stunning heritage due to construction or give in to commercial pressures unless new stringent conservation laws are implemented immediately. A cursory glance at the Ahmedabad municipal corporation's demolition notices will reveal the gravity of the situation.
In entire 2011, when Ahmedabad figured on Unesco's tentative list of world heritage cities, there were 398 illegal buildings in the central zone issued demolition notices by the AMC. Incidentally, a majority of the buildings in central zone consist of heritage structures.
By December 2016, the number of illegal buildings had rise to 1,073. A majority of these illegal structures 377 buildings were ironically traced to Khadia ward which has the highest number of listed heritage properties and is Ahmedabad's showcase for Unesco.
There are six wards in the central zone. Information acquired under RTI by Kalupur resident, Pankaj Bhatt, says that after Khadia, Jamalpur ward has 260 illegal buildings, Shahibaugh has 167, Dariyapur has 144, Shahpur has 80-odd illegal buildings while Asarwa has 45 illegal buildings.
"The number of illegal structures will further increase if the AMC's town planning department and the heritage department of the AMC do not co-ordinate on the issue. Currently, both these departments work in isolation," a senior AMC official said.
The official also told TOI that in a submission before the Gujarat high court last year, the AMC had admitted, on affidavit, that there are 692 buildings or premises in the walled city which are being used contrary to the existing development control regulations.
"The old havelis are either occupied by tenants through generations or belong to multiple owners. The only way to gain economic value from them is by selling. Another reason is the proximity of these havelis to railway and bus stations which makes them ideal to be used as godowns," the officials said.
Walk through the lanes of Khadia, Raipur, Dariapur, Kalupur, Astodia, Jamalpur and Shahpur and you will see demolition going on even in seemingly quiet corners. Some new residential schemes have come up in Sewka Wadi (near Sankhdi Sheri), Hajira ni Pol, Jethabhai ni Pol and Bhav ni Pol.
In some pols in Raipur, old houses with intricate carvings and at least four bedrooms are being brought down to build 2-BHK flats which are being sold for Rs 26 lakh each. Even Ahmedabad's first pol, Moorat ni Pol, has been marred by illegal construction. So have Khetarpal ni Pol, Bandhara no Khancho, Madan Gopal ni Haveli, Revadi Bazaar, Akasheth Kuan ni Pol, Ghansiram ni Pol, and Kot ni Rang.