Indian Army to preserve British-era architecture

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Indian Government is planning to introduce legislation to ensure that cantonments, churches and cemeteries built by the British during the Raj are preserved as heritage structures.

There are 62 cantonments and 650 military stations in the country, some of which are in disrepair. The new law will ensure that the Army does its bit to prevent other such structures from becoming dilapidated.

One example is the St. Martin's Church which was founded in 1929 by Field Marshall Sir William Birdwood of the British Indian Army. The plaster has peeled off the structures cracked walls, and heavy seepage has damaged the dome. The church also serves as a makeshift school-cum-storehouse for local residents.

Conservation Architect Ratish Nanda said the move is significant because it will not only protect heritage in the cantonments but also areas around it, adding that cantonments will "show the way forward". Urban Designer K T Ravindran said, "This law means that areas where we have built heritage will not fall into the hands of open market."

Some of the main aims of the law are to ensure that:–

  • The Indian Army follows schemes of restricting construction and development plans in the cantonment area.
  • Preemptive measures are taken to protect heritage.
  • Construction that affects heritage buildings is carried out only after permission is obtained from the Cantonment Board.
  • Any construction disfiguring a heritage site can be challenged in a court of law.
  • The Cantonment Board conserves and maintains ancient and historical monuments.