Heritage Status for Fire Temples
Soon, heritage status for fire temples – CLICK HERE TO READ THE ARTICLE IN INDIAN EXPRESS
Expressindia.com, India – Jul 3, 2008
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation has listed 47 Parsi structures to be included in the city’s Heritage list. While 17 of these structures were already …
IMPORTANT: Please read the above article. Then help us with your individual statement on the importance of preserving our cultural heritage sites. Please send your statements to Ader@Gandi.com and they will be included in further dealings with the heritage preservation authorities. Alternatively, you could leave comments in the box below. The more statements we have, the stronger will be our case to have the authorities decide to preserve our sacred sites for the future. For example, below is my statement. Yours can be in your own words.
To, Chief Engineer, Development Plan, Mumbai Municipal Corporation, Mahanagarpalika Road
Annexe Building, 4th Floor, Mumbai – 400 001.
Re: Parsi Fire Temples on Heritage list Ref : CHE/578/DP/General dated 26/6/2008
Thank you for including my Parsi – Zoroastrian religions sacred sites in the city’s Heritage list.
It is my fervent wish and desire that all our Agiaries and Atash Behrams be upgraded to the highest status which will protect the structures and come under strict controls of important heritage rules.
This will preserve my religious and cultural heritage for future generations of my community to enjoy.
May God guide you with wisdom in making these important decisions for the future of the Parsi Zoroastrain sacred sites.
My dear fellow Zarthustis,
After last weeks felicitation program to applaud the governments efforts to declare 47 Agiyaries as Grade IIA Heritage structures, the mood within us traditionalists is jubilant and upbeat. We think we have achieved a major victory in our quest to safe guard and perpetuate our heritage, or have we?
I have certain questions, concerns and issues which do not find their solutions in this step and from where I stand the picture looks grim. Please allow me to elucidate further and I request your patience in hearing me out.
Firstly, as I understand once any property is declared Grade IIA, no new construction/development can come up in the said plot of land. The existing structure and its vicinity on the entire plot can thereafter NOT be altered. However one has the freedom to carry out repairs etc as per the tenets of the religion.
Secondly, most of these properties (including the 4 Atashbehramsahebs) fall in the A and C wards of the BMC.
Thirdly, all such structures to recoup their loss of development are compensated by TDR, called Heritage TDR. As per the DC rules of Greater Mumbai, (the law governing all such heritage structures) this kind of TDR is sanctioned by the BMC and then can be transferred with the consent of the BMC within the same ward. Herein lays the catch!
Anybody who has any property in the A or C wards will tell you that current DP rules and zoning laws make new constructions very difficult and the major reason is a lack of FSI. Also as per DC rules one cannot use TDR within the limits of Greater Bombay except slum or HERITAGE TDR!
Again, experience will also tell you that the BMC is more corrupt than the most unscrupulous of Parsi trustees and for any construction permission even for non-heritage structures in the heritage precinct one has to oil the wheels of the BMC.
One of our most grave concerns was that trustees are squandering community assets either out of their lack of moral fiber or plain stupidity, in either case the community losses out on its resources and community assets are blatantly exploited for personal gain by a few. Thus endangering our heritage and making our places of worship vulnerable to outsiders and profit mongers.
All this information points towards some rather unsettling certainties, now trustees need not sell the physical land of the place of worship they can merely cohort with the BMC and builders and sell off the TDR and no one will be the wiser!
At least public outcry was an effective tool to thwart such efforts but now with only a piece of paper passing hands the community will never know what any trust has done with its most prized asset namely Development rights of the property until after the deed is done and then it will be too late.
As a bonus, we increase the scope of the BMC in our affairs as now we will need the BMC and the Heritage Committee for any and all aspects pertaining to the property. Even tough we have the freedom to effect any and all changes required as per the tenets of the religion let us not forget that it has to find favor with the BMC and the H Committee, without whose NOC no such work would be possible, which means further greasing of the palms… So every time we want to add or repair a new weather shed or repair or alter the adjoining idhoras or other structures we will have to explain to the Committee its religious validity and then pay them for their NOC. Not to mention the windfall the BMC will make when they cohort with the trustees to sell the TDR to the builder lobby.
Also please give a moment to think that after we have sealed the fate of our places of worship and guaranteed that the structure will remain standing for time to come, how will we guarantee that the holy fire within will sustain itself? Any place of worship of any faith needs a congregation to thrive, but after we make sure that Zarthushtis may never again settle around the protected structure how then do we guarantee that we would perpetuate the raison d’ etraire of that protected structure namely the Holy Ataash?
Please understand that the dominant powers that may be in the corridors of power and government have always been very keen to develop the A & C wards. For this purpose they created the ‘cluster development’ concept. In spite of this due to various reasons large developments have been very difficult in the said wards however with the heritage TDR coming into play this hurdle can now be overcome. In fact this makes it very easy for trusts with un-utilized FSI to play into the hands of unscrupulous elements.
This is how I have been given to understand. I turn to one and all to bring to all our attention anything that may have been missed out or misconstrued or misinformed. But, God forbid, if what I have been given to understand is indeed true then I urge one and all to come together to oppose this move and safeguard not only the buildings that are the mark of our faith and our heritage but also the Holy Ataash for time immemorial.
If anyone should want to meet me personally or talk to me I would be more than happy to do so.
I look forward to hearing from you all. Please spread this email so all our brethren can express their views and decide for themselves.
Kaizad F Todywalla