Bhimili Conservation Workshop

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Proceedings of a Heritage Conservation workshop for Urban & Architectural conservation in Bhimili, near Visakhapatnam, India

Text of Bhimili Conservation Workshop

PROCEEDINGS OF

THE WORKSHOP on A CONSERVATION PLAN FOR BHIMILIOrganised by

THE ROYAL NETHERLANDS EMBASSY

on 29 & 30 March 2002 at Visakhapatnam, A.P.

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Initiated & Co-ordinated by Kiran Keswani architectkiranmkeswani@gmail.com

CONTENTSChapter 1 : Executive Summary Chapter 2 : Pre-workshop planning inputs Chapter 3 : Programme Chapter 4 : Minutes of the meeting Chapter 5 : Plan of Action Chapter 6 : Defining roles for future action

Annexures 1 Inventory of Historic Buildings(From a study conducted by INTACH in 1995. Reviewer : Mr.Sajjad Shahid)

2 Maps from Tourism development & Conservation Plan a report by Mr. S.P. Shorey, Planning Officer, HUDA

3 History of the town 4 Vizag Kolkata connectionPaper submitted by Robert-jan Baken on Tour operation in Visakhapatnam and A.P.

5 Activities of the organisation VIKASA 6 Reports, Publications and Documents that have relevance to Bheemunipatnams Conservation endeavour 7 An extract of the relevant provisions of the A.P. Municipalities Act 8 List of Participant addresses

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Executive Summary

The objective of the workshop was to create a platform for preparing a Conservation Plan for Bhimili. It brought together representatives of the local Administrative authorities i.e VUDA (Visakhapatnam Urban Development Authority) and BMC (Bheemunipatnam Municipal Corporation), the A.P. Tourism department, Conservation experts, NGOs working in Bhimili and the residents of Bhimili to review the development of Bhimili. The workshop was initiated and supported by the Netherlands Embassy whose aim is to work towards Conservation, Restoration and Tourism for the revival of Dutch and Indian heritage in Bhimili. The focus has been on participatory planning and the approach has been to develop a plan based on the needs of the people of Bhimili and one that grows out of inputs from residents, tourists, planners, citizens of Vizag, administrative bodies, conservationists, historians and tourism consultants. Ms. Banashree Banerjee, Consultant in Participatory Planning acted as a facilitator before and during the workshop. The programme for the 2-day workshop was prepared with her inputs and direction. Subsequently, intensive interaction with NGOs, residents of Bhimili and the local administrative authorities over a month long period created an understanding amongst the local participants for the need for such a workshop and the expected results. The Vice-Chairman, VUDA, Mr.S.G.K. Kishore presented the work being done by the Urban Development Authority in tourism-related projects and towards the preparation of the Master Plan. He described the recent renovation work of the Clock tower in Bhimili. He pointed out that in Bhimili, at present, land value is seen as more important than heritage. The development of basic services was considered important and private sector participation would be encouraged. The Municipal Chairman, Mr.Shailendra Reddy informed the workshop that the municipal council had passed a resolution to buy back old buildings through MP grants and public contributions for reconstruction work. He emphasised that fishermen now living in slums are the original residents of Bhimili. It was necessary to review land procedures to enable acquisition of lands that had heritage buildings facing negligence. Mr. Ashis Banarjee presented the Conservation of the historic city of Ahmedabad. The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) has its heritage cell and they work with the citizens of the walled city of Ahmedabad. In this project, for the first time, a loan package for the owners of heritage buildings has been created as a result of the collaboration between AMC, HUDCO and the Govt. of France. Mr. S.P. Shorey, in 1980, prepared the first report on Tourism development & Conservation Plan for Bheemunipatnam (Annexure 2) At the workshop, he discussed the packages that were needed to develop Bhimili Infrastructure, Notifications & Regulations, Traffic management, Architectural guidelines, Encouraging residents pride in Bhimili, and the 3

Municipality as prime-mover. Buildings had survived in the past, also in the absence of regulations and government initiatives. He explained that today, regulations could act as a catalyst. Regulation could allow you not to demolish. They would ensure a dialogue between owner and Municipality before a building is pulled down. Regulations may also relax other requirements like land use and building controls in the interest of conservation.

Mr. Manish Chakraborti expressed the need for a vision plan for Bhimili, the mapping of heritage buildings and precincts, the illumination of ruins, identifying private houses for guest accommodation, celebrating through festivals the process of revival of Bhimili and preparing landscape plans for historic precincts. Mr. BalaSubramanyam, representing the residents of Bhimili talked about the concerns of the local people and the need to gradually win their confidence for tourism and conservation interventions in the town. Some of the issues wanting immediate attention in Bhimili were rain-water harvesting, schools and public transport. Mr. Vishwanadh, VIKASA, an NGO working in Bhimili presented their work. Dr. Prabhakar & Ms.Jyothi, Green Vision offered to contribute their time and effort to future development activity in Bhimili. Sadguru Sivananda Murty expressed his views on the development of Bhimili. Prof. G.S. Rao explained the Tourism initiatives of the State govt. for the entire Visakha region. Mr. Arunachalam, Chief Urban Planner, VUDA and Prof. Thakur, Consulting Engineering Services explained the Master Plan under preparation for the Visakhapatnam Metropolitan Region that will include also Bheemunipatnam. CES expressed the possibility of sharing the earlier master plan with the residents of Bhimili and incorporating their requirements, using questionnaires, for the next master plan. Group discussions were held to elicit views of the participants on various issues. It was felt that the strategy for Bhimili needed to be in consonance with the scale of the settlement. Its smallness and tranquillity were to be respected and utilised to benefit tourism and conservation. Heritage is what people think it is. It is not something abstract. Peoples concerns were to be understood and addressed. Small initiatives would bring results. It could be a One street a week approach. It ought to be made mandatory to obtain Permission to demolish just as it was to have Permission to demolish. Dr. Aarsse affirmed that the recommendations to be acted upon immediately are : Architecture : Forming the Bhimili Heritage Cell Reconstruction of the circular tower of the Governors Bungalow to rebuild the image of Bhimili as a heritage town Social aspects : Restoration of the old tank & well which is connected to two issues water management & heritage conservation. Creating awareness in different fields, including cultural heritage, through education

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Mr. Sunil Sharma, District Collector felt that the Development of infrastructure facilities and Preservation of Dutch culture were interdependent and needed to be simultaneously worked upon. Local people would understand Conservation only if they saw economic benefits to it and this could be done by utilising their services as guides and so on. Bhimili could only be a part of a tourism circuit and therefore it was important to have an integrated plan.Circular tower of Governors Bungalow complex (Pic : Mr.S.P. Shorey, 1990)

Ms. Chandana Khan, Secretary, Department of Tourism, Andhra Pradesh concluded at the end of the workshop that Bhimili to be revived as a Dutch Heritage town and the revival to be based on Sustainable tourism development, Ecofriendliness and concerns of the local authorities. A long-term plan and a short-term plan would be made for Bhimili. The Master plan being developed by VUDA to have all the micro-details. A series of interactions are required with the local people and transparency to be maintained by discussing the master plan with them. RTC buses going to Vizianagaram need to pass through Bhimili. In the Action Conservation plan 2002, at least 2-3 buildings to be conserved. The circular tower would be a unique selling point and to be part of the short-term plan. Signages for Bhimili could be designed by NID. She requested the District Collector to pay as much attention to Bhimili as to Visakhapatnam. Ms.Khan emphasised that heritage buildings are being demolished in Bhimili and there is no time to lose. Implementation is really the task.

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Pre-workshop planning inputs

The planning of the workshop began with the question : What do we want to do in Bhimili or for Bhimili and why?

The Royal Netherlands Embassy The town of Bheemunipatnam being once a dutch settlement, the Netherlands Embassy was willing to be part of an initiative by the Andhra Pradesh government and non-governmental organisations for the development of Bheemunipatnam with a view to restore and preserve the cultural heritage of the town. Dr. Robert Aarsse, Head, Dept. of Press & Culture visited Bhimili on 30th September 2002 to study the existing conditions in Bhimili. During this visit, Dr. Aarsse saw the dutch cemetery at Kumarapalem, the Flag Staff cemetery on Beach road, the Ocean View guest house, the Municipal office and the Port office. He met with the Municipal Chairman, Mr. Shailendra Reddy; the then Municipal Commissioner, Mr.Seetharamaiah; the Past Pastor of the St.Peters Church, Mr. Roberts; and some of the residents of Bhimili. After the visit to Bhimili, Dr.Aarsse met with the then District Collector, Mr. J.S.V. Prasad to understand the concern and future plans of the administrative authorities in Heritage Conservation, Urban development and Tourism. It was