Lack of conservation, nature takes toll on Mumbai's oldest fort

The base of structure, which is nearly eight-feet wide, has started getting eroded.

Mumbai: Centuries after its construction, the first fort built in Mumbai at Mahim creek is fast degrading due to natural elements, like sea waves and salty breeze, causing erosion. According to conservation experts and local residents, the base of the fort, which is nearly eight-feet wide and was built as a citadel to defend the then sea trade, has started getting eroded and unless authorities take steps to stop it, the wall may collapse. The residents have written to the authorities but have not received any response yet.

The fort was controlled over the centuries by several maritime powers including the Gujarat rulers, the Portuguese and the British. It’s a Grade A Heritage structure and owned by the state’s archaeological department but is encroached by concrete illegal tenements. Confirming the slow but steady degradation of the oldest fort, Abha Lambah, a city-based conservation architect, said, “The problem is not restricted to the exterior, the interior is also getting damaged due to the illegal tenements.

Though the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), an NGO submitted an exhaustive report last year pointing to the urgent need for conservation along with recommendations, nothing has come of it.”

Ms Lambah added that, as many authorities were required to get involved in the conservation work, it was getting delayed. “We (Ms Lambah and ORF) met many authorities and urged them to initiate measures to save the fort but till a higher authority like the chief minister gets involved, the fort will suffer,” said Ms Lambah.

According to deputy engineer Akash Chakore, Maharashtra Maritime Board, which was overseeing the maintenance of forts till last year, had installed tetrapods and had undertaken regular surveys to assess the damage to the forts; however, after maintenance being handed over to the coastal engineering department of the public works department (PWD) there has not been any damage assessment surveys.

According to Farook Dhala, a resident and activist from Mahim, in the absence of any protection, the outer walls of the fort get lashed by waves and in the past few years many stones have got dislodged. “Around two-three weeks back a large chunk of the wall’s base on the northern side of the Fort got dislodged. Despite the thickness of the wall, we are worried that this could be the beginning of the entire wall collapsing and hence wrote to the authorities,” said Mr Dhala.

He added that in the letter addressed to the chief minister and Maritime Board they had requested that the authorities take steps like putting tetrapods or build anti-erosion bunds to ensure that the damage to walls is minimised. “Large parts of the fort facing the sea have succumbed to the lashing by the waves. Cracks have developed and they keep on getting enlarged with the passage of time. It will not be long before another wall collapses if urgent steps are not taken by the authorities,” said Mr Dhala.

Next Story