Old Delhi strengthens townhouse protection

World Heritage Site nominee increases the number of listed buildings and seeks to incentivise owners

Following an extensive survey, the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) has increased the number of listed buildings by 300 over the previous list to 1,064 buildings.

The list include 303 privately owned buildings, including traditional townhouses known ‘havelis’, which have unique architectural features but had been previously overlooked.

INTACH surveyed whole streets and identified properties that had historical elements such as old railings and arches before listing them for protection according to different grades of architectural or heritage value.

Most of the properties are from the Colonial period, but some date back to the Sultanate and Mughal eras and while some are in relatively good condition, many are in a bad state due to lack of maintenance.

In May 2012, the Indian government submitted a request for Delhi to become a World Heritage Site and the city is currently one of 1,631 sites on a Tentative List, which is the first step in the nomination process.

In the meantime, however, only a fourth of the listed heritage properties in the Walled City have any protection, with a number of havelis collapsing due to neglect or the impact of nearby unauthorised construction.

“People who want to demolish their havelis do not want them notified as heritage properties. We need to prevent this. Once notified, a heritage building cannot be demolished or even altered without municipal permission,” an INTACH official told Indian news site ETRealty.com.

To combat the problem, INTACH has sent the final list to Shahjahanabad Redevelopment Corporation, which is developing incentives and financial assistance to haveli owners to maintaining the buildings.



Image: Haveli at Katra Neel© by Varun Shiv Kapur (CC BY 2.0)

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