Heritage vs development

The Hindu carried an interesting editorial late last year on developing heritage cities in India.

Most people don’t associate Bengaluru with heritage. While it is true that Bangalore has only a few monumental historic buildings like – two forts, two palaces and a scattering of temples.

What we do have is: a large network of tanks, plenty of trees and parks, and a number of historic zones. Places like Basavanagudi, Whitefield and Chickpet have a unique historic character defined by their architecture, layout and/or mix of communities and professions. Charming precincts like these are what drew people to Bangalore and gave it the ‘Garden City’ and ‘Pensioner’s Paradise’ epithets.

Today, unfortunately, Bangalore is a classic example of paving over paradise to put up parking lots.

To those who argue that losing heritage is inevitable if we want to modernise, I have only one word: London… though almost any European city could be taken as an example of how retaining our past need not be anti-development. Indeed, heritage protection can be a catalyst for sensitive development. Retaining the historic character of some of our city’s older areas, regenerating our lakes, protecting our parks and trees can all make our city liveable once more. It would also make the city more attractive for visitors.

And perhaps most important, heritage conservation usually leads to an enhanced sense of belonging and civic pride in an area’s residents, often a critical ingredient for further development of the area.


  1. Manoj Gunwani says:

    A better example than London which has the benefit of being reeked in history are the heritage districts in Chinese cities such as the Kwan Zai area in Chengdu. They marry heritage preservation with commercial compulsions very well. Heritage can make money, it just needs the right people to do it.

  2. Nanda Ramesh says:

    Agree 100%. I live in Basavanagudi and cannot understand why the powers that be want to make the Gandhi-bazaar area more car-friendly. The beauty of it is the open markets and convenience (where possible) to pedestrians for shopping. Ideally, they traffic should be kept minimal and footpaths wide and large…to retain its charm.

  3. Meera Iyer says:

    Thanks for the info on the Chinese cities, Manoj. Would love to hear more on them. And Nanda, you’re so right about Basavanagudi. Several cities elsewhere in the world have taken up measure like traffic calming (forcing cars to slow down, sometimes by narrowing streets) for exactly the reason you give: keep traffic minimal and footpaths wide and large…to retain its charm.

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