Mumbai: Shivaji Park, one of the city’s famous landmarks, has come under controversy with the likelihood of it being included in the heritage list.
With the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) proposing Grade I heritage status to the park and inviting suggestions and objections from the public, both Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) have opposed this move as, they feel, it would hamper any redevelopment of the dilapidated buildings surrounding the maidan. Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and MNS leader Raj Thackeray, who lives in this locality, have objected to this since the Marathi-dominated middle class population here would be badly affected.
More importantly, both parties have their headquarters in this locality where the Park has been the venue of massive political rallies, particularly of the Sena.
Uddhav yesterday met Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan who said he was aware of public sentiments on the issue of sites proposed in the heritage list and assured the Sena leader that the government would take a decision only after consulting the municipal commissioner and the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee.
Thackeray informed Chavan that several residential buildings have been included in the list of proposed heritage sites, prepared by the Committee, but people want changes since a heritage status would pose problems like repairs and redevelopment of buildings. Many of the buildings on the periphery of Shivaji Park are 50 to 75 years old and in a dangerous, unsafe condition, he said.
If the park comes under the category of Grade I, it acquires national or historical importance and therefore no structural changes to the park or to the precinct’s architectural value can take place. This means structures within 300 metres of the park will be come under the proposal.
The BMC has proposed to give heritage status to 868 sites and structures across the city and as a result political parties as well as developers are worried about this move. However, several citizen activists fighting for open spaces have welcomed this inclusion particularly of Shivaji Park. Neera Adarkar, architect and urban researcher, and Ashok Rawat, a member of the Shivaji Park Advanced Locality Management, feel the list promises a new lease of life for Mumbai’s open spaces, which have been shrinking by the year.
The 28-acre park has been training ground for several Indian cricketers, particularly Sachin Tendulkar, and activists feel that more and more youngsters should avail of this open space. Many residents also feel that the serenity of the area should be maintained.