A view of the shops on the stretch between the Hall Gate and the Golden Temple in Amritsar which will be given heritage look.

Project heritage-look: Govt move stirs debate

Amritsar, Punjab: Heritage lovers and experts have expressed reservations about the state government’s move to lend a heritage look to the shops and the residences on the Hall Gate to the Golden Temple stretch under Rs 55-crore Union government project.

While certain quarters have come out against the move, others have expressed their opinion on the way it should be carried out. Senior BJP leader Laxmikanta Chawla has raised a question mark over the project, saying, “It sounds strange that the government is talking about building the heritage by demolishing old bazaars and buildings. The officials must answer whether the heritage is created or conserved. The buildings that were demolished in the past were our heritage and today the government is talking about razing a part of shops and residences to change their facade and lend them a heritage look. The government should tell the people as to which heritage it intends to conserve by demolishing and renovating some structures.”

Former SGPC general secretary Bibi Kiranjot Kaur said instead of lending a uniform look to the structures, the government should replicate the traditional designs of the facade of the existing heritage buildings. She said they should have five to six different designs to replicate so that the flavour of the city is not lost. “Giving them a uniform look will not be in sync with the spirit of the city. It will be disastrous and would kill the city’s soul,” she said, adding that the people from Amritsar should be involved in the project. Dr Balvinder Singh, Conservation Spatial Planner, GNDU, felt that a comprehensive approach should be adopted while carrying out the project with the help of heritage experts. He also cautioned that the traditional character of the walled city must be maintained and no drastic changes should be made. “We need to evolve urban design guidelines by doing documentation of existing architectural and decorative elements in the walled city. We also need to evolve special building bye laws for the walled city as the present bye laws are damaging the streetscape as well as the townscape of this historic-religious city. We must also establish heritage advisory committee on the pattern of Shimla which will help in protecting from damage to buildings and areas.”

On the other hand, allaying apprehensions, the MC authorities say the existing heritage structures on the stretch would not be touched while they will restrict themselves to lending a uniform look to all the shops while ensuring that the city’s traditional character is maintained. They said all the shops will be painted with earthen colour. They said they will be using GRC (Glass Reinforced Concrete) technique in the job which is recognized by the ASI.

THE PROJECT: The Tourism Department’s project aims to bring uniformity in the facade of the structures, a majority of them commercial, on the lines of Lucknow’s Hazrat Ganj which is painted in a single colour. A Mumbai-based private firm has already prepared a detailed project report (DPR) to paint the structures on the approach and exit roads to the Golden Temple with a single colour while similar, attractive and equal-sized signboards will be put up to streamline the exterior of buildings falling on the path. It will all be done at the government expense. The NOCs are being sought from the shopkeepers for the project.

Source: The Tribune

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