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Walking through the narrow, winding lanes of Sita Ram Bazar in Chandni Chowk, where the overhead web of electric wires and encroaching tarpaulin shades outside shops make every day seem cloudy, the once two-storey building of Haksar Haveli is easy to miss.
Over 100 years ago, it was here that Jawaharlal Nehru was wedded to Kamala Kaul.
Now it is a heap of garbage next to an overgrown peepul tree behind a rusted iron-sheet door encroached on both sides by shops.
While the Haksar Haveli and several other unprotected monuments in old Delhi and other areas of the city stand in neglect, conservation experts on the eve of World Heritage Day stressed that the buildings were a slice of history and should be preserved.
Conservation architect and former INTACH Delhi chapter convener AGK Menon felt that while the conservation of unprotected buildings was a "complex problem", it could be achieved with the government's support and by encouraging people to protect structures that underlined the city's rich heritage.
Buildings that do not come under the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) are generally not protected legally, so they get neglected, he said.
Legally, only 17 buildings were protected by ASI and hundreds, including havelis, were unprotected.
"They are also heritage. The Delhi govt has notified about 1,200 such buildings. And slowly they will be conserved," he said.
Some of the unprotected monuments, especially havelis, in the city are private properties which are either crumbling or being sold to private builders.
Haksar Haveli is among 1,321 similar buildings across Delhi, according to the petition, where "illegal and unauthorised" construction was happening.
"There are so many buildings built in Shah Jahan's time. Such beautiful buildings that are not possible to be built in today's time. There were havelis spread over 9000 square feet. They are part of Delhi's character, its identity," she said.
Sehgal suggested that the owners of the buildings be legally bound not to construct on the land.
"Original owners sell the land to builders since they don't have any use for it. We don't care who owns the building as long as it remains the way it was. No construction should happen," she said.
She held that the authorities should get the owners to sign an affidavit that they would not construct over or demolish the old buildings.
"They need to realise these structures are part of the heritage and everything that's possible should be done to protect them," Sehgal said.
Menon, while citing ways to avoid such situations to keep an owner from selling the heritage building, also mentioned the limiting laws that made conservation a difficult task.
"We are now trying to give incentives to the owners of the havelis to conserve the buildings. Since these are private buildings, the government may not be able to spend money on private buildings. So we are encouraging the owners to do it, otherwise they will demolish it and make a multi-storey building. It's happening all over," he said.
The country's banking laws don't allow a person to take a loan against a building older than 50 years, while building bylaws dictate that heritage buildings cannot be put to commercial use.
He said since not all heritage buildings have an economical value, they could be conserved if converted into a guest house.
"We have building bylaws that say heritage buildings cannot be put to commercial use. So we have to change that too," he said.
If a heritage building was turning into a guest house, the owners could make a living out of it, as well as live in their own house.
Conservation architect Ratish Nanda, who recently finished the conservation work for Sunder Nursery near Humayun's Tomb, also echoed Menon's thoughts and said a similar approach was required for smaller monuments.
"What is essential is each historic building, no matter how small or big, is an asset and it needs to be treated like an asset and not a burden. We need incentives such as government incentive on conservation. It needs to become the priority," he said.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)