Eminent academicians, writers and civil society activists of Kolkata have written to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to declare certain areas of the city, which are both architecturally unique and climate-congenial, ‘heritage precincts’, and also identify green cover and biodiversity zones.
“Decisions regarding this need to emanate from you; there will be little change otherwise, and no change at this point quite genuinely means disaster. We have reason to believe you will act,” says a letter addressed to the Chief Minister, dated May 1.
Along with writer and founder of the Calcutta Architectural Legacies (CAL) Amit Chaudhuri, the letter was signed by writer Amitav Ghosh, filmmaker Aparna Sen, honorary professor of the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences Tapati Guha-Thakurta, founders of PUBLIC Bonani Kakkar and Pradeep Kakkar, Director, INTACH, West Bengal chapter G.M. Kapur, among other artists and academicians.
In the letter, the eminent citizens have urged the Chief Minister to declare Benoy Badal Dinesh Bagh (Dalhousie Square) and College Square ‘heritage precincts’ and Hindustan Park/Lake Temple Road/Dover Lane ‘art deco heritage zones’ and take necessary steps to preserve their historic character.
“This would not only boost the city’s economy; it would also energise its cultural life. We would be glad to participate actively in this process,” the letter said.
The letter pointed out that the Chief Minister had spoken about the special dangers that Bengal faced from global warming and the steps taken to preserve and nourish the Sunderbans mangroves’ protective wall.
“Still, the fact that new studies have, since, further established that Bengal is in profound danger, that heat has risen to unacceptable levels, and that Kolkata’s overheating is leading to catastrophe means that short-term measures (like the periodic closure of schools), while they are necessary, will not suffice,“ the letter said.
On the issue of biodiversity zones, the citizens have urged that not just parks, but clusters of trees, green spaces, and gardens around houses be declared green zones.
About eight years ago in 2015, a similar appeal was made by writer Amit Chaudhuri asking for urgent reforms in heritage laws that would protect the city’s historic neighbourhoods from demolition.
Observing that historic neighbourhoods, the city’s greatest assets, were vanishing irretrievably, the letter pointed out that although there was greater consciousness of what was at stake in the matter, it was not reflected by government policy or by the workings of the Municipal Corporation.