Heritage village flags violations, says no action yet

Mumbai

Even as the demolition of five heritage structures at Willingdon Colony, Santacruz, in June led to a standoff between Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee (MHCC) and BMC, complaints from residents of the heritage Matharpacady village, Mazgaon, seem to have virtually gone unheard.

To preserve the historic character of their century-old neighbourhood, the Matharpacady Residents Welfare Association (MRWA), formed by over 120 resident families, has, since 2010, written to BMC and MHCC several times on the illegal construction activity in the village.

So far, residents have recorded unauthorised alterations/constructions on five of 42 bungalows that comprise the heritage precinct. In the past three years particularly, the South Mumbai ALM has been protesting the unchecked construction and alterations carried out on houses 19, and 21(A), located in the heart of the neighbourhood.

"These illegal constructions have encroached on roads, sewage lines and even their own structures ruining the original heritage features of the area. The village is well-planned and has enough space for movement but these unchecked changes are putting a lot of strain on our limited infrastructure even fire brigades and ambulances cannot pass through smoothly. We don't want big buildings here. We are happy with our homes," said D Baptista, president of MRWA.

MRWA, apart from approaching BMC, had also written to MHCC. However, while the heritage committee was quick to act on the Willingdon Colony demolition, where residents were allegedly propped up by a rival builder, no response was forthcoming in this case.

MHCC chairman V Ranganathan said, "I have not received their letters from the BMC office. I will have to check with them to see what these letters are and accordingly, we will address their issues." As per the heritage village precinct guidelines for Matharpacady, approved by the municipal commissioner in 2007 but pending with the state urban development department (UDD), footprint including the roofscape and verandah of the structures in the precinct must be maintained. Moreover, the guidelines put restrictions on height and any changes to the structures' facades and architectural features.

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