Art, Culture & Architecture

    Old Amdavad: From UNESCO Recognition To Preservation Struggles

    Inam Ansari
    September24/ 2023
    Last Updated:

    Old Amdavad

    Ahmedabad: Ahmedabad, a city where time seems to stand still, boasts of rich history, culture, and architecture. Cross the Sabarmati River, and you find yourself in old Amdavad, a place where every lane whispers tales of the past.
    In old Amdavad more than 360 pols (housing clusters) emerge, each a unique blend of religious and caste diversity, showcasing a kaleidoscope of architectural styles.
    Ahmedabad's journey to UNESCO World Heritage Site status was a carefully curated process. The selection criteria for a World Heritage Site are stringent and demand exceptional cultural or natural significance.
    In Ahmedabad's case, it was the city's rich Indo-Islamic heritage, dating back to the 15th-17th centuries that caught the UNESCO's attention. Tombs, temples, gates, and exquisite monuments were among the treasures recognised.
    However, Ahmedabad's journey has not been without hurdles. Maintaining its World Heritage City status has been an ongoing challenge. UNESCO experts were initially skeptical, as the city lacked a comprehensive plan to safeguard its ancient citadels, mosques, and tombs. The city received a warning and now faces a potential review of its World Heritage status.
    A 2019 survey revealed that 30 per cent of the heritage properties in Ahmedabad were compromised or vulnerable.
    The Heritage Conservation Committee (HCC), an independent body overseeing conservation measures, raised concerns. Buildings were demolished, spots lay vacant, modern structures merged with heritage buildings, and many structures were in a poor condition.
    The battle to preserve this heritage is real. “Many heritage houses are in dire need of renovation, and homeowners often find themselves struggling to navigate the complexities of heritage conservation. Water leakages, crumbling walls, and sanitation issues are common problems.” said a local who has lived in old Amdavad all his life.
    Madhish Parikh, founder, Elixir Foundation and a dedicated advocate for Ahmedabad's heritage, expressed, "The local residents lack the necessary financial resources to undertake property restoration. The current process mandates that they initiate restoration, incur the expenses, and subsequently apply for Floor Space Index (FSI) bonds from the AMC for cost reimbursement. Individuals possessing Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) certificates receive a 20 per cent refund initially and the remaining 80 per cent upon completion of the restoration project. This intricate cycle poses a significant challenge to the preservation of Ahmedabad's precious heritage."
    One resident, Ramesh Shah, shares his experience: "Heritage houses demand renovation as they are old. When I wanted to renovate my house, I had no idea whom to approach. After I identified the AMC’s heritage department, I went there for over 15 days. Forget about funds for renovation, they wouldn’t even listen to me. It is my house, it demanded renovation, and so I went ahead on my own and got the repairs done." —IANS