A one-member 'team' of UNESCO visited parts of Marine Drive, buildings facing the Oval Maidan and other areas on Friday
Every year, the Centre sends one proposal to UNESCO for declaring an area as World Heritage. The proposal to declare the esplanade came up three years ago, according to Pankaj Joshi, executive director of Urban Design Research Institute (UDRI). The UN rep decided to visit the city following the proposal that was sent by the state and seconded by the Centre.
The UNESCO representative also held a meeting with Urban Development secretary Nitin Kareer. "There was a presentation that we made for the UN," Kareer said. He then left to visit the areas along with other experts. A member accompanying the UNESCO representative said that it would be a long wait before the report would be prepared.
The question that Marine Drive residents have on their lips is: Will the state government and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation ignore their views completely, and turn a blind eye to the dangers posed by the buildings in their neighbourhood that require immediate repairs and reconstruction?
On Thursday, a major tragedy was averted when residents of a three-storey building in Ghatkopar noticed that it had started tilting, and vacated it. The building was barely 60 years old. Residents of Husaini building in Bhendi Bazaar were not so fortunate and as many as 33 persons lost their lives in the crash earlier last month.
Statistics provided by Anuj Puri, chairman of Anarock Property Consultants, a real estate consultancy firm, shows that Mumbai alone has seen as many as 10 per cent of building collapses in the country – 1,366 of the 13,740 such incidents between 2010 and 2015. According to Puri, around 14,000 people across the country have lost their lives due to building collapse in the same period.
Residents of Marine Drive are demanding state and civic body's urgent intervention in the matter so that their buildings could be redeveloped at the earliest. Any 'world heritage' tag, they fear, would make it illegal to even push a nail on the walls of their homes. Sharad Harlalka, another resident of Marine Drive, said, "I will get a bigger home when the building I stay in is redeveloped. There are so many joint families that stay here. Once the buildings are redeveloped, residents will get bigger homes and better accommodation for all members. There are some vested interests who want the area to be declared 'world heritage', while we want redevelopment," he said.