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Oval precinct makes a straight case for Unesco heritage tag

Ashutosh Shukla, DNA | Last Modified - Aug 01, 2011, 05:36 AM IST

Oval precinct makes a straight case for Unesco heritage tag
  • Oval precinct makes a straight case for Unesco heritage tag
    Oval precinct makes a straight case for Unesco heritage tag

    Mumbai: Mumbai's Oval precinct is being pushed as a contender for Unesco's world heritage site. If it is eventually bestowed the honour, Mumbai will join Delhi in having the maximum number of world heritage sites in India.

    The proposal to nominate Oval precinct was thought of by the Urban Design Research Institute (UDRI). Work on the proposal began in 2003 when Unesco held a conference on modern heritage.

    After chief minister Prithviraj Chavan sent his approval letter to the cultural ministry recently, heritage conservationist Abha Narain Lambah and city historian Sharda Dwivedi made a presentation to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) for the Oval precinct to be listed as a world heritage site.

    A grade one heritage structure already, the Oval precinct is a rare combination of heritage of two centuries facing each other. On its east is the Victorian Gothic structure built during 1870-1890 while on the west it has Art Deco buildings that caught the world's imagination post 1920.

    "Nowhere in the world do we see the heritage of two centuries facing each other," said Dwivedi, who worked on a tentative dossier and presentation made to the ASI in July. "The special committee (of the ASI) is working on it and once through, it will be sent to the tentative list of UNESCO," said Lambah.

    Mumbai has often been said to be the first city of the country. After the fort walls were demolished, the whole expanse of land was opened up.

    "A very conscious design decision was made to have Victorian Neo-classical ensemble of buildings. A Rampart Removal Committee under James Trubshawe was formed to ensure all the structures are Victorian Gothic," added Lambah.

    It was then that structures like the Central Telegraph Office, Bombay high court, University of Mumbai and the City Civil Court came up. They all faced the sea until reclamation took place and a series of Art Deco structures beginning from Eros cinema to the buildings on the Marine Drive front came up.

    "Few know that we have the second highest number of Art Deco buildings in the world. Most are in Miami which makes a good tourism business from them," added Dwivedi. "A lot of countries presented papers for likely heritage sites. At that time, I presented the case of Art Deco buildings in Mumbai that people felt could be a worthwhile nomination," said Lambah who presented the paper on behalf of UDRI in 2003.

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