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British installed the Flora Fountain in one year, BMC takes 3 years to repair it!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017
By Steffy Thevar. Photograph By Azad Shrivastav

South Bombay's prime architectural landmark, the Flora fountain continues to remain under wraps as the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is struggling to uncover complicated ancient plumbing systems and on top of it, GST remains a boulder in making payments to the consultants, says a heritage engineer. The fountain has been covered since March 2, 2016 and, according to heritage and conservation engineers, it will take another whole year to be ready for viewing.

The original deadline for the fountain was September 9, 2016 but was extended due to various issues like extended monsoons in 2016. “The project has also been stalled due to the recent implementation of Goods and Services Tax,” said Sanjay Sawant, Assistant engineer of the heritage department. He also said that it was difficult to uncover the ancient plumbing system.

Sudarshan Shirsat, sub-engineer of the Heritage conservation Cell said, “We are trying to get the work done as soon as possible but the renovation has been extended due to various reasons.”

According to Sawant, “The blocks for Flora Fountain were imported by the British and was set up in 1864.” According to the plaque on the structure, the fountain had been constructed by the Esplanade Fee Fund Committee at a total cost of Rs. 47,000 with the help of donation of Rs 20, 500 by Seth Cursetjee Furdoonji Parekh and had been inaugurated on November 18, 1869. The British could build this architectural wonder in a year's time, but the BMC which started the renovation in 2016 will probably finish the task till 2018.

The organisation INTACH, Greater Mumbai Chapter, bagged the contract for the project which commenced on September 9, 2016 and was supposed to have been completed within six months.

The first phase includes revamp of the fountain followed by the renovation of the surroundings. For the first time, BMC commissioner, Ajoy Mehta has reserved Rs 5 crores especially for heritage structures, most of which are at the A ward. The final work of phase one will be completed by December 15 and then tenders for the second phase will be floated, said Sawant. “The second phase of beautification will take eight months to be completed and will include beautification of the exteriors and surroundings. The painting was a difficult task since we had to apply 7-8 layers of paint to match the original quality and the structure had not been painted for a very long period of time. We have used Cobalt Stone, will place lights and make arrangements for resting place. The storm water drain near Hutatma Statue and Flora Fountain had to be reworked on to make sure that there emained no stagnant water during monsoons. The delay has been mainly due to issues from the conservator's side and some of the fingers of the statue had been broken as the status and the fountain had been neglected for a huge amount of time.”

In a report published on April 13, titled 'Poor fumbling Flora', the BMC had admitted to changing conditions for the renovation work to attract more contractors. ''The renovation work of the heritage structures is mainly done to attract tourists,'' said A Ward, assistant commissioner, Kiran Dighavkar. ''However, the delayed renovation work has upset many tourists who have been seeing the structure wrapped under covers for such a long period of time.''

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