The state Archaeology & Museums Department has expressed doubts over a plan to open the Gateway of India monument to visitors, as proposed in an initiative called ‘Tourist First’. A proposal to construct a photo gallery inside the monument is being debated by the stakeholders involved in the upkeep and security of the World Heritage Site.
Tourist First was launched by Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT) in June. It had roped in the BMC, the Mumbai Police, Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust, Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation, India Tourism, Maharashtra Maritime Board, Archaeology & Museums Department, the Taj Mahal Palace and Hotel, the Royal Bombay Yacht Club and the Radio Club.
Representatives of each agency met at the Royal Bombay Yacht Club in Colaba on Tuesday.
While the department has in-principle approved the plan for the photo gallery and a stage for performers near the monument, it has asked them to submit a detailed plan of the gallery.
The gallery, developed jointly with the MbPT, will be designed by the JJ School of Arts. “We have proposed a temporary structure inside the monument, where we will display vintage photographs of Mumbai,” said Nilesh Kumar, project co-ordinator from MbPT.
The department had raised concerns over the potential damage to the interiors of the monument due to influx of tourists.
The structure, made entirely of sandstone, was built to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary to the city in 1924.
“Sandstone is durable and does not easily corrode. However, we have to consider the monument’s proximity to the sea. Layers of salt have formed over the monument over the years, and tourists will be tempted to touch and scribble on the walls. The effects of that will not be immediately apparent, but will show when the structure begins to deteriorate in a few decades,” said a department member.
The police has planned to set up another security booth outside the gallery to control access and avoid overcrowding. “Another option is to install a monitor to will display the images. That way, fewer people will be entering the monument,” said Rameshwar Supale, senior inspector, Colaba police station.
Kumar said, “The gallery will be at least two feet from the walls and visitors will be kept another foot away. We will also cover the walls.”