Urbz has been collaborating with Khotachiwadi residents for well over a decade. We worked closely with its residents several times to speak out against arbitrary development projects. We organized workshops and small events where residents like James Ferreria graciously hosted us in their lovely homes for debates, film screenings, talks, and presentations. These have seen conversations with locals, students, and other urban practitioners to better understand what the Khotachiwadi heritage precinct means to Mumbai's ever-transforming landscape. Additionally, we also facilitated the creation of an online platform where residents - as well as anyone interested - can share stories and concerns about Khotachiwadi.
One workshop that we hosted with locals and architectural students in 2016 captured the neighborhood and its distinctive architecture through different lenses. It acknowledged how these elements have faded with the passage of time, with bungalows falling prey to urban stresses one after the other. In the workshop we collaborated with a group of design students who documented the precinct with a high level of technical precision. This yielded a master program that was whetted by (and also created with the help of) residents through collaborative brainstorming. This master plan was shared with the residents and local authorities.
One of the important learnings from this process was that heritage protection is critical, especially in an area like Khotachiwadi, which embodies the city's history. Yet, preservation is synonymous with the transformation which needs to be done collaboratively, with all stakeholders having an equal say in the matter.
Khotachiwadi’s proud residents have always been at the forefront of debates about their cherished neighborhood, its conservation, and the assistance that they require from the government and other authorities in charge.
Today the neighbourhood is dwarfed by enormous multistory pencil-like apartment structures sprouting up in Girgaon. Local builders continue to scour Khotachiwadi's 100+ year old houses. Some locals have given up on their difficult-to-maintain homes. While some residents who are still proud of their long-preserved neighborhood are tired of fighting the monotonous battle against changing times, unscrupulous local builders, and corrupt government officials.
In the last week of April 2022, yet another abandoned property was on the verge of getting completely demolished. However, some local residents rallied together once more to raise their voices, and successfully managed to get a stay order from the BMC on the ongoing demolition.
James Ferreria, a 65-year-old activist, described the incident with tremendous anguish. According to him, the diminishing number of people banding together these days to protest the hasty demolition of these historic structures is cause for concern.
He also points out that despite the fact that it is a heritage precinct, there is no statute dictating demolition/renovation restrictions for these old structures. Some owners utilize their free will to take down the interiors for renovation purposes. Some residents have just maintained the exterior intact in order to keep the "appearance" of the house while replacing the inner components. In some cases, the style has been completely modified without regard for heritage.
It is to be commended, however, that the inhabitants of Khotachiwadi continue to band together after all these years to protest the disorderly demolitions of their bungalows. Obtaining a stay order from the BMC is a triumph in and of itself.
It is worth reflecting on what else is required to keep this community mobilization going?
For example, infusing the Khotachiwadi Welfare Heritage Trust office with a new lease of energy and support. Its office is still open, with a few community members working to make a difference. But it needs to raise more resources in order to survive. The most important resource it requires is people's time - citizens, aspiring designers, policymakers, and urban practitioners.
Urbz would like to invite everyone who is interested in learning about and taking action to address the situation in Khotachiwadi. We plan to meet on Thrusday, May 19, 2022 at 6:00 pm. We will go over the previous studies and reports once more and speak about how we can take simple measures to reconsider the recommendations made in prior reports, as well as fresh recommendations from residents and experts. Those who are unable to visit Khotachiwadi can also join us virtually. Here is the zoom link for the event: https://lnkd.in/eZwYk65u
Let's get started on developing and implementing a robust, comprehensive master plan that takes into account the ever-changing scenario while also preserving the delicate character of the heritage precinct.
Download urbz’ Khotachiwadi proposal here: http://urbanlab.org/khotachiwadi/Proposal_Jan2016_web.pdf
(and here for the printable version).
Download the Khotachiwadi Imaginarines workshop report here: http://urbanlab.org/khotachiwadi/Imaginaries_Workshop_Jan2016_web.pdf
(and here for the printable version).
Click here to read the Mid-day article: https://www.mid-day.com/mumbai/mumbai-news/article/mumbai-demolition-at-khotachiwadi-leaves-locals-outraged-23224930
And click here to see urbz's archive of Khotachiwadi: https://www.flickr.com/photos/urbzoo/collections/72157625333671169