Grading and Listing of Built Heritage of Surat

The quality of life, living environment, indigenous techniques and knowledge carried over from the past are considered as Heritage. Conservation of ancient heritage has been a challenge to all levels of governments and especially for local governments who are in direct contact with manifestations of this heritage. UMC believes that old buildings and older areas of the city should be looked upon as assets rather than liabilities because they represent the history of communities, embodying their tradition, heritage and culture through architecture and the urban form.

Majority of city centers are decaying for several reasons. These centers are looked upon as liabilities rather than assets that represent the history of the family, community, its tradition, art, architecture and overall planning. The ignorance about the value of these centers and their financial unaffordability make the situation even worse. This leads to the total destruction of our heritage. To avoid the destruction of our past and family/ community traditions we must make efforts to conserve our built heritage.

The Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC) realized that Surat’s growing urban setup was destroying the history of the city and took urgent steps to document the tangible and non tangible heritage. In July 2008, SMC commissioned UMC to conduct a survey of the city’s tangible and non tangible heritage and document them to facilitate creating a policy for setting up regulations to aid heritage conservation. UMC undertook an extensive and in depth study of heritage sites of Surat in collaboration with SMC. The local government had easy accessibility and permeability to the local people which was an impetus for public participation. The study put forward innovative ideas for revitalization of the sites.

The project was launched with a workshop called “Surat Sona ni Murat” on the background of history, culture and heritage of Surat with participation of stakeholder. The workshop helped the participating staff understand the fabric of the city. The UMC team prepared a comprehensive form for listing of heritage properties. The criteria included age of building, year of construction, ownership, nature of building, material of construction, architectural elements, special features in the built typology, community spaces, tree, gates and street furniture etc. The survey format was finalized by consultative meetings with SMC representatives, field testing, selecting and training survey teams. UMC also conducted a secondary literature survey by meeting people with the knowledge of history, cultural fabrics of Surat. UMC thereafter used the GIS to generate thematic maps for further analysis and decision making by the Municipal Corporation.

The findings of the survey were published by UMC in a book called 'At the Core: Understanding the built heritage of Surat and Rander' which was awarded the INTACH-SATTE (The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage – South Asia Travel Tourism Exchange) Award - 2011 under the category of ‘Exemplary work done or the Preservation and Promotion of Historic Towns’.

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