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Jan 22, 2013 at 09:10am IST

Kolkata: Activists struggle to preserve heritage buildings facing threat from modern structures

Kolkata: Deborshi Roy Chowdhary has seen his ancestral home, that dates back to the Mughals, bought and torn down. An apartment complex will now stand in place of his house, burying the history of one of the oldest zamindar families of Kolkata. And Roy Chowdhary is not alone. Kolkata is fast losing its heritage structures because of fractured families, pending litigation and high maintenance costs.

"Our own property our family, our own person... are disintegrating and new people are coming in within the campus which is hundred years old. So it certainly saddens me," says Anil Kumar Roy Chowdhary, a resident.

However, the Heritage Commission of Bengal now has a plan: A law to preserve privately owned properties and neighbourhoods that have added to the city's character for years. It's an idea proposed by writer Amit Chaudhuri. He says, "If we get the law passed in six or seven months... but by that time many more houses will go down. The pace at which the houses are disintegrating, very little will be left."

For member of the Heritage Commission and Netaji's descendant Professor Sugato Bose, the changes are all too real. A gigantic shopping mall stands right outside the bedroom that was Netaji's. Professor Bose says, "If we are able to say that it will be a long term investment and if some tax incentive can be given then I think we can get those who want to keep their buildings but cannot at the moment."

It's a pressing concern for Kolkata and its people as the city and its neighbourhoods are fast losing their sense of history. With old buildings making way for new apartments, the fear is that very soon, there won't be much to salvage of Kolkata as Asia's first modern city.