Amid the ongoing Turf War between the centre and the state government, another issue has come raging between the two.
This time, the issue is regarding the national capital’s chance to become the first ‘world heritage city’ in India, which was killed by the centre last Thursday. The UNESCO World Heritage website reads that Delhi’s Imperial Capital City nomination was withdrawn by the state party (permanent delegation of India to UNESCO) on May 21st.
Though the Central Government has withdrawn Delhi’s nomination for ‘World Heritage City,’ however, the national capital is still in the race of getting the ‘heritage’ tag next year.
On Thursday, the centre had pulled out the name of Delhi from the lists of ‘World Heritage City’ just a month before UNESCO was to review nominations from across the world.
“I have written to the central government asking them to reconsider their decision. It has taken a lot of time and effort to reach this far, and the heritage tag would be a matter of great pride. The nominated zones are a very small area. This will not impact development,” said Delhi Tourism minister Jitender Tomar.
The centre also expressed its concern over the fact that the ‘heritage tag’ could have made lots of restrictions on the city’s development project.
“The heritage tag will slower the development program in the national capital as it imposes lots of restrictions in bulldozing the ancient buildings. Delhi is a heritage city and has lots of edifices more than 500 years old,” said a minister of Central Government.
According to the sources, the Delhi Government has already spent Rs. 2 crore for the nomination.
“We have made our initial procedure. Now it is up to the center to change its decision,” said an AAP Party member.
The city’s nomination will be granted in June 2016 on the basis of a review report given by UNESCO at the end of December this year.
New Delhi, Nov 15 On a cold December morning some 65 years ago, a seemingly dense fog engulfed the City of London. People went about their business as usual as it was a common occurrence at that time. It didn’t take long, however, for Londoners to realise that this was no regular fog but a toxic combination of smoke and fog — smog.
That Great Smog of 1952 — often called “The Big Smoke” — killed an estimated 12,000 people and had long-term ill-effects on the health of the city’s residents.
Last week, AIIMS Director Randeep Guleria compared the alarming pollution scenario in Delhi with London’s 1952 crisis. Environment experts agree that if serious steps are not taken, Delhi may soon face a similar kind of “air pollution disaster” which London did 65 years ago.
The Big Smoke did not happen in London all of a sudden. There were signs — alarming signs — as even before the 1952 crisis, the British capital experienced smog events several times in the past which they called “pea soupers”. Those were similar to what Delhi may be experiencing today.
Just as in Delhi today, the smog engulfed London, reducing visibility and causing discomfort to children and the elderly and to those suffering from respiratory diseases. The number of patients reporting to hospitals with respiratory ailments used to increase at that time of the year.
But it took the air pollution disaster of 1952 for the British government to acknowledge the magnitude of the crisis and take a slew of measures to undo the damage — including passage of the Clean Air Act 1956 and shift from coal-based fuel to alternative fuels.
While some experts wonder if Delhi is also waiting for a disaster like The Big Smoke to take stringent measures to improve the city’s air quality, others feel the disaster is already upon us and would have long-term health impacts on Delhi’s residents.
Eminent environment expert C.R. Babu said what we face in Delhi today is much more serious than the London smog.
“In London, smog killed because people faced breathing problems. But the toxins in Delhi’s air could lead to long-term problems and chronic health disorders, and not just short-term health issues,” Babu told IANS.
“Vehicular exhausts have large amounts of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons which are toxic in nature and are also carcinogenic,” he added.
Babu warned that the situation would become much worse if the government didn’t act fast. “Just like the London incident was called an ‘air pollution disaster’, what we have today is a similar disaster in Delhi. But in Delhi’s case, people will suffer for longer periods.”
“It is time for the government to think deeply about long-term planning for preventing such air pollution disasters,” he added.
According to AIIMS Director Guleria, the alarming pollution level in the city has already led to an at least 20 per cent increase in the number of persons complaining of cardiac and respiratory problems.
He also warned that about 30,000 persons may lose their lives in the National Capital Region alone due to the current pollution levels, numbers which, he said, he had extrapolated from the number of hospital admissions.
Vivek Chattopadhyay, Programme Manager at the Centre for Science and Enviromment, said it could be a watershed moment for Delhi and should not be taken lightly.
“Ultimately, we are dealing with a health crisis, not just visibility problems,” Chattopadhyay told IANS. “There are huge health costs and, as per estimates, air pollution is costing India around three per cent of the GDP in terms of health costs.”
Chattopadhyay said that the recurring smog incidents of Delhi are major warning signals and just as was the case of London before the big disaster, the powers that be in Delhi may also be unaware of the magnitude of the problem.
“The problem is that our health system won’t be able to tell how many are affected. We need a comprehensive data recording system. Hard statistics are needed about the number of cases of respiratory problems, cardiac arrests and strokes that are reported in the hospitals,” he said.
As for precautionary measures, he said there was a need to introduce clean fuel for everything and a parity of laws across NCR and not just in Delhi.
“Delhi in isolation cannot remain clean. It is high time that the government woke up and an inter-state meeting was held to collectively solve the problem. It has become a recurring thing and there is a need to change the way we work. The time for action is now,” he said.
R. Suresh, Fellow and Area Convenor at TERI (The Energy and Resource Institute), pointed out that Delhi’s response to the crisis has so far been reactive, not pre-emptive, which needed to change.
“While weather is not in our control, what we can control are ground-level emissions. What we have witnessed so far is that we face a crisis every year and then the government reacts. We need a long-term solution,” Suresh told IANS.
“We know that November-December is the peak time for air pollution. So our precautionary measures should happen before November. Why wait for Diwali to ban crackers? For next year, measures should be taken now.”
While Suresh said that the main problem was stubble burning in the neighbouring states as well as construction and road dust, Babu maintained that the exhaust from automobiles are more dangerous.
“You have to regulate automobiles — stringent measures are needed. For example, Singapore has decided to stop registration of all new vehicles. Why can’t we do that in Delhi? Almost every household has a vehicle today. More than the need, it has just become a symbol of social status,” he said. (IANS)
Mumbai, November 14: They are not-so-mute witnesses to history, clanging away at intervals of 15 minutes, as if asking us all to grab the moment because time was slipping by.
Perhaps in the daily, mad rush in Maximum City, not many Mumbaikars pay attention to the 16-odd time-keepers of the city, some of them centuries old. But they have seen dramatic changes as Mumbai evolved from a conglomeration of fishing villages into a burgeoning metropolis — a modern, global financial centre accommodating 17 million people that often appears to come asunder at its seams.
“I was once permitted to go up the tower to click Mumbai views, but came across a lot of dirt, pigeon droppings and even dead birds. If people are allowed to visit them regularly, maintenance will be better,” historian and archaeologist Mugdha Karnik told IANS.
He says Mumbai’s clock towers are an important aspect of any city’s history and should be more accessible to the masses, especially in Mumbai.
The most famous of the Mumbai’s Clock Towers is, of course, the Rajabai Clock Tower adorning the entrance of the University of Mumbai, which once played God Save The King and a Handel Symphony with 16 tunes that kept changing four times a day — now limited to chimes every quarter of an hour. But it still makes heads turn with people glancing at their own watches to match the time.
The iconic 280-feet tall structure, once visible from distances of 15 km, entered the 140th year of its existence in November. It has seen the reclamation of land beyond the present Oval Maidan, which pushed back the Arabian Sea by nearly 200 metres. Access to the top, which offered a panoramic view of Bombay, was stopped a few decades ago after it became a suicide point.
Other famous clock towers are at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT), Naval Dockyard, David Sassoon at Byculla Zoo, Crawford Market, St. Thomas Cathedral, BH Wadia in Fort, David Sassoon Library, Life Insurance Building Churchgate, the Khoja Shia Imami Ismaili Jamatkhana gifted by the Moloo Brothers of Zanzibar — all in good working condition.
There is a Time Ball Building clock tower in the Mumbai Port Trust, which is not functional, another at Sasoon Docks Gate in Colaba, Lakshmi Insurance Building in Fort, Fulchand Nivas Building at Chowpatty, Mhatre Pen Building and Vijaynagar Building, both in Dadar to the north, and a few stray ones in other parts of Mumbai.
Avid clock tower lover, conservationist and historian Aadil Desai said the ones at CSMT, St. Thomas Cathedral built in 1718, David Sassoon at Byculla Zoo, David Sassoon Library, Naval Dockyard, BH Wadia and some others are very well-maintained and continue to grab attention.
“Several conservation activists regularly keep in touch with the owners of these premises on the status of the clock towers and they are very cooperative as it is a part of the city’s rich heritage and history. The Mumbai Port Trust is even considering setting up a museum at the site,” Desai said.
Every clock tower is unique, each having its own history and importance for the city, he said.
For instance, Rajabai Tower was financed by “Cotton King” Premchand Roychand, one of the original founders of the modern-day Bombay Stock Exchange Ltd. It was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott on the lines of London’s Big Ben and built in nine years for what was then a staggering amount of Rs 550,000.
It is named after Roychand’s blind mother, Rajabai, who was a staunch Jain and needed to have her meals before dusk, and the clock chimes helped her do that without needing to depend on anyone.
The massive Mumbai’s clock towers above the CSMT — which was one of the sites targeted during the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks — was built in 1888 by Sir Frederick William Stevens, inspired by the Victorian Gothic architecture of London’s St Pancras Railway station.
It’s now a UNESCO world heritage site and the imposing clock sees millions of commuters hurrying past daily or tourists gaping and photographing it. Recently, the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has built a “selfie point” off the CST and the BMC headquarters to help people click pictures of the heritage precincts.
It was in the 1860s that Albert Abdul Sassoon, son of a Baghdadi Jewish philanthropist, came upon the idea of settng up a good library in the heart of the city. It materialised in 1870 as the David Sassoon Library at Kala Ghoda, near the Jehangir Art Gallery.
It is built with yellow Malad stone, like the nearby Army & Navy Building, Elphinstone College and Watson’s Hotel, with a proud white stone bust of David Sassoon adorning the library entrance.
The Sassoon Docks, with a large clock tower, is one of the oldest fishing docks of Mumbai built on reclaimed lands in Colaba and constructed in 1875 by Albert Abdul Sassoon as a prime fish unloading and trading spot, which remains operational till date.
The Crawford Market, renamed Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Market, is a stone’s throw from the CSMT and opposite the Mumbai Police Headquarters.
Blending the Norman and Flemish architectural styles, the freizes at the entrance depict Indian farmers and fountains made of Kurla stone, designed by Lockwood Kipling, the father of the legendary novelist Rudyard Kipling.
The Time Ball Building clock tower at Mumbai Port Trust is just one of the two surviving — the second being in Kolkata — and among the handful in the world, like at Greenwich, UK. Desai says it is an important piece of historical heritage and must be protected.
Perhaps it’s time to step in and preserve the Mumbai’s Clock towers which may otherwise become the victims of, well, time. (IANS)