Earliar this month, UNESCO declared Ahmedabad as a World Heritage city, making it the first such in India. ... Similarly, last year, while Chandigarh's Capitol Complex was added to the coveted list as part of the Trans-Continental Serial nomination to celebrate the works of architect Le Corbusier, despite opposition, we lost Pragati Maidan's Hall of Nations, a modern heritage site designed by Raj Rewal to the government's plan to build a 'state-of-the-art' exhibition ground.

It is this strange gaining and losing game surrounding heritage that concerns me as a conservationist. Our past requires a good future, and that's possible through present action. But, built heritage has missed political patronage, administrative/legal protection and corporate funding. I'm yet to see a single example anywhere in India of ideal conservation legislation. Neither state governments nor the centre has taken proactive steps to ensure heritage enjoys the same status as development. A majority of the unprotected heritage stock still falls under obsolete rent control acts that result in the structures' degeneration.


In the future, I hope that like the CST Terminus, the gothic revival Architecture in the Fort neighbourhood, the Art Deco ensemble of buildings across from the Oval Maidan and the Marine Drive stretch, and the unique Bombay Deco architecture on Pherozshah Mehta Road also make it to the list because it's all these as a collective whole that make Mumbai distinct. I saw a ray of hope in the decision of the Railways to allow a garden to come up on the east of the CST, following a more sensible recommendation in the WHS nomination dossier, which will benefit the city and citizens, instead of the earlier proposal to carry out commercial development.