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DDA team to visit Ahmedabad civic body to study heritage cell

A team from Delhi Development Authority (DDA) will soon visit Ahmedabad to study the functioning of the “very successful” heritage cell of the municipal corporation there, ahead of setting its own heritage preservation unit for the national capital.

About a month ago, the urban body, under the chairmanship of Lt Governor Najeeb Jung, had decided to set up a dedicated heritage cell to roll out the vision of its Delhi Urban Heritage Foundation (DUHF).

“As part of our preparedness to set up our heritage cell under the DUHF, we have been consulting a lot of case studies, and doing a lot of research. And, since Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation’s (AMC) heritage cell is quite known for its related work, we are going to learn about its structure and functioning,” said, a senior DDA official.

The official, who is part of the team visiting the western city, said, the “idea is to see and learn from their (AMC’s) model, and then we can decide how much can be applied to the city of Delhi”.

“We are leaving on July 16 evening and the trip will last for about three to four days,” she said.

“The basic purpose of the visit would be to know about the AMC’s policy framing, their implementation, among others. And, though both cities are similar in many aspects, their are others issues, such as the nature of stakeholders, which means one city’s model cannot be just adopted for the other. But, we are going there with a very open mind,” the official said.

The AMC in collaboration with CRUTA (Conservation and Research of Urban Traditional Architecture) foundation, an NGO, had established the first heritage cell with in an urban local body (ULB) in 1996, which has now become a national model for heritage revival.

Ahmedabad-based architect-turned-heritage activist Debashih Nayak, who was instrumental in formation of the cell at the AMC says, “Heritage suffers mostly because of lack of proper policy and legal framework.”

“The heritage preservation can best be worked out at a municipal level, whereby the government can reach out to people and bring about real change for the sake of conservation,” said Nayak.

According to the DDA official, “Delhi and Ahmedabad both are similar cities, replete with both ancient and modern heritage. Both have an old walled city and a new modern counterpart. But, for Ahmedabad, its just one agency mainly, the corporation (AMC) while for Delhi, we have multiple agencies like — the three MCDs (municipal corporations of Delhi), DDA, Cantonment Board, CPWD, among others.” Also, there is the issue of Centre and state for Delhi, so policies cannot be framed in the same manner as for any other city, she added.

The partnership with NGOs like INTACH or others, we have already been doing. AMC’s Heritage Cell organises heritage walks in its city, which we also have been doing on multiple themes here, but we really want to understand the implementation of the policies, both new and amended ones, which seek to preserve the heritage of the city, she said.

As part of its efforts, the cell in Ahmedabad, organises heritage festivals, innovative storytelling, performance arts, heritage walks, carries out restoration work, publishes a heritage-themed journal, among others.

The efforts have paid rich dividends for Ahmedabad, and a lot of old houses and havelis and heritage structures have now been preserved under the plan.

DDA, meanwhile has also dedicated a chapter on conservation of built heritage in the city’s master plan, which is likely to be ready soon.

DDA’s effort towards heritage conservation began only in 1993 with the urban authority naming an annual ‘DDA Urban Heritage Award’, which it offered till 1997.

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