The West Bengal Heritage Commission is organising a two-day training session for conservation of heritage buildings to bridge a vital gap in project execution.
“The public works department (PWD) executes our projects but their engineers are often not aware of the principles of restoration of heritage structures. The knowhow for drawing up estimates is also lacking. This is a capacity building workshop for government engineers and contractors,” said Basudeb Malik, officer on special duty in the heritage commission.
At the workshop on Thursday, held at the commission’s office in Behala, Tapan Bhattacharya, a retired Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) deputy superintending archaeological engineer, shared tips on technical aspects of conservation and also on how to draw up estimates for heritage structures. Surajit Maiti, former ASI director, science, offered insights on chemical preservation of structures.
“Many contractors do not understand conservation; those who do, quote much higher rates. But the one who quotes the lowest gets the tender. That becomes an issue,” said conservation architect and heritage commission member Partha Ranjan Das.
Another issue that emerged was the disparity in government and market rates.
“We are revising the schedule of rates but that has to be accepted by the PWD and finance department,” Das said.
Some important steps are ignored when a building is restored. “A shelter has to be created over it. Also the artifacts have to be inventoried and secured to prevent theft. Funds have to be made available for condition survey. Treating an old building is like treating an old patient. Tests have to be done first to assess its condition before the detailed project report is drawn up. Funds are seldom available for that,” Das said.
A lime mortar application will be demonstrated to the participants at Hindu Academy, a derelict school building, on Amherst Street on Friday.
“We are planning two more projects in February and April to give them more exposure,” Das said. “We will organise such on-site training in the districts as well,” said Malik.