Our big cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata are developing faster than anyone would have expected. The authorities are out to make them huge financial and business centers. The municipal authorities seem to think that heritage is getting in the way of development. Their plans of action revolve around allowing sky-scrapers, shopping malls, five star hotels, and transportation infrastructure like network of roads, metro rail to be built in every part of these and other major cities.
In an effort to make these cities modern or great, the authorities are destroying many symbols of India’s heritage like clock tower in Crawford market in Mumbai and several tombs and gates in Delhi. Some old markets are being modified with glass or glaze tiles replacing their original style. Even the courtyards and open skies in a number of buildings-which give them a definite character-are being encroached upon in the name of modernization. The private owners of some heritage buildings are being given another piece of that the authorities could do what ever they like to come up at the original site.
Our major cities need to be saved in every sense of the word. Building more infrastructure will only add to congestion, traffic jams and pollution. Encroaching upon old buildings which have preserved our art and architecture for centuries, and giving them a new look will not make our cities great. Therefore, heritage buildings must be left as they are. In case they need repair, it should be done by experts in the field, using the original material, and in such a way that the character of the structure and its surroundings is kept intact.
The inhabitants of large cities want a comfortable living, agreeable working conditions and an enriching life in their leisure time. They want a surfeit of choices in terms of theatre shows, art displays, music concerts, sports events, museums, archives and tourist spots of historical importance. These choices exist in all great cities like London, Paris, Rome, New York, Sydney, even New Delhi, and must therefore be allowed to be sustained.
The image of a city is deeply associated with its landmarks. The in habitants carry in their mind not just their residence, streets and shops but the image of heritage buildings. Muslim architecture is ingrained in the image of Delhi while Mumbai is more associated with Western art and artifacts. We must preserve the spirit of these cities which is embodies in their landmarks.