Following complaints about poor maintenance of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST),the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee (MHCC) plans to write to the Central Railways (CR) seeking clarification on alleged changes made to the structure that is listed as an UNESCO world heritage site. The decision follows allegations that some of the gargoyles on the Bombay Gothic structure have been removed to accommodate toilets.
The administration will send a letter in a day or two. We have been informed by people that some of the gargoyles have been kept aside for toilets. We will ask them if any such changes have actually been made,and what is the status on maintenance, said V Ranganathan,chairman of the MHCC.
Formerly known as Victoria Terminus,the iconic CST was built in 1878. It was designed by British architect Frederick Williams Stevens and it took 10 years to complete the construction of the terminus that currently serves as the Central Railways headquarters. At the time,the total cost of structure,which is a fusion of Victorian Gothic and traditional Indian architecture,was estimated to be around Rs 2.5 crore,the highest for any structure built during that era.
The terminus has also been listed as a Grade-I heritage site. In 1996,it terminus was re-named after the Maratha king.
Section 45 of the Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning Act,1966,vests in MHCC the authority to approve or deny permission to carry out any changes on listed heritage structures within its area of jurisdiction.
A member of the committee said,It would be a great embarrassment for us if CST lost its world heritage tag because of unauthorised changes in the structure. Even if the structure is under the care of the CR,the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation is in charge in the city limits and proposals for changes to heritage properties must be referred to the MHCC.
Atul Rane,chief public relations officer,CR,said the structure was being maintained as per the action plan submitted to UNESCO when the station was granted world heritage status. According to the plan,we have said we will demolish toilet blocks as despite renovating the front portion,the rear of these structures was in a bad condition and ruined the overall beauty of the structure. There was some debris lying around from previous restoration work. People saw parts of gargoyles and monkeys lying broken amid the waste and mistook it for us breaking down these historic elements. Actually,these are old irreparable parts that have been replaced. We have maintained all heritage aspects as per the plan,, said Rane.
Another CR official said on the condition of anonymity,Actually,the heritage committee just wants us to employ their recommended architects and structural engineers. Instead,we have opted to cut costs. We have only outsourced the consultation part to conservation architects but have used our own engineers for executing the work,which may be in conflict with what the MHCC wants.
Unless we have some major changes that go against the UNESCO action plan,it is not necessary for us to approach the MHCC for any restoration work we carry out on the site, he added.
Ranganathan,however,said denied the allegations as baseless,saying the CR never brought its case to the MHCC for examination.