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INTACH report points to hurdles in converting iconic VT into museum

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New Delhi: The Indian Railways’ plan to convert Mumbai’s iconic Chhatrapathi Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) building into a museum may well be derailed.

A report by the Mumbai chapter of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) has listed several hurdles to the move, even as sections within the national transporter seem to be opposed to the idea.

Designed by British architect Frederick William Stevens, the 129-year-old building, earlier called Victoria Terminus, is currently the headquarters of Central Railway.

The Railways had earlier moved a proposal to shift the headquarters of Central Railway to another place in the city and convert the building — which is Mumbai’s only Unesco World Heritage Site — into a state-of-the-art museum.

“UNESCO has become very strict about interventions to World Heritage Sites. First and foremost, it is important to write to UNESCO, apprising them of the intention to convert the site into a museum,” INTACH Mumbai chapter said in its report, submitted to the Railways last week.

INTACH’s Mumbai chapter was asked to prepare a report on the proposed museum project and, accordingly, the document was submitted — drawing the Railways authorities’ attention to the complex issue.

“UNESCO requires a heritage impact assessment report to be prepared by an expert. The Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee (MHCC) must be approached for permissions,” INTACH Mumbai chapter maintained in its report.

It is also learnt that the move is facing resistance within the Railways hierachy as a section is not in favour of moving the Central Railway HQ from the iconic landmark as the project would cost the cash-starved public transporter about Rs 153 crore — Rs 68 crore for museum and Rs 85 crore for the new headquarters.

Apart from UNESCO and MHCC permissions, which seem to be difficult, railway unions have also raised the red flag to the project, opposing vehemently the idea of shifting from the building which got the UNESCO World Heritage Site tag in 2004.

It seems any move on the project without the nod from UNESCO would mean the building would lose the World Heritage Site tag.

Every day, more than three million suburban commuters use the station, still referred to by its old initials “VT”. The building also houses some 400 employees of Central Railway, including the General Manager’s office.

Currently, Railway officials are busy in preparing budget proposals and it is understood that no forward movement has been made in the project so far after receiving the INTACH report.

IANS

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