A good-hearted initiative by the Parsi community to preserve its old architecture while securing the housing needs of poor members has earned it international recognition.
Conservation architect Vikas Dilawari’s restoration of Sethna Buildings in Tardeo has won the Award of Distinction in the 2012 Unesco Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation. A total of 43 entries were received from 11 countries.
Located near Tulsiwadi, Sethna is a 100-year-old enclave of five residential buildings that house poor Parsis. The tenants pay small sums ranging from Re 1 to a few hundreds every month as rent. They are happy the building trust chose not to rebuild afresh for that would have raised property tax and other levies beyond their means.
Dilawari gives credit to the Garib Zarthostiyona Rehethan Fund trust that opted to repair these buildings rather than demolish them.
“We firmly believe that even if we cannot contribute anything to our heritage, we can at least preserve what we have inherited,” says Muncherji Cama, honorary secretary of the trust. Cyrus Unwalla was contracted to execute the project.
The trust has repaired over 45 residential properties across Dadar, Bombay Central and Tardeo. Families were given alternate housing within its estates and did not have to pay a penny towards shifting or repair.
The newly reconstituted Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee is considering incentives for residents who choose to conserve rather than rebuild heritage properties.