Mumbai's Monuments can Boost Fort Tourism

Mumbai: Standing tall and bearing the scars of innumerable battles, the remnants of forts in Mumbai are a testament to the valour of Maratha warriors in the centuries gone by. But most are in a dilapidated condition or have been renovated in a way that has robbed them of their original grandeur.

While this city is known as India's business and entertainment capital, Mumbai is not known outside for its forts. Historians and conservationists believe that if tended with proper care, these monuments can give a boost to "fort tourism".

Sharda Dwivedi, veteran historian, researcher and author of several books on the history and culture of Mumbai, is saddened by the lack of care for the forts. The city is home to at least 10 forts that, if developed, can be a major tourist attraction, she said.

"Bombay (Mumbai) has the second largest number of art deco buildings after Miami in the US. However, unlike Miami where an entire precinct was restored, making it an international tourist attraction, here we do little to preserve our heritage," Dwivedi said.

"Moreover some forts, instead of being restored to original glory have just been tampered with using concrete and cement. The state archaeological department has not even bothered to appoint a conservation architect to restore heritage forts," she said.

Castella de Aguada, also known as the Bandra Fort, located at the land's end in suburban Bandra was built by the Portuguese in 1640 as a watchtower overlooking the Mahim Bay to the south and the Arabian Sea to the west.

Under the supervision of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), the fort is currently under renovation.

Not very far from the Bandra Fort, towards the south, is the imposing Mahim Fort. The fort is today literally buried under a pile of garbage.

Strategically located in the Mahim Bay, the fort overlooks Worli to the south, Bandra to the north and Mahim to the east. In a state of disrepair and threatened by encroachments and tidal erosion, the fort is one of the few that are right next to the sea.

"This fort is the best example of total neglect by the state. Where would you find a fort which is as strategically located in the middle of the city?" asks Abha Narain Lambah, a conservation architect.

"One has to literally wade through an awful lot of trash to reach the fort," she added.

The Riwa Fort, right in the middle of Dharavi, the biggest slum of Asia, also requires conservation. Also known as the Kala Qila or the black fort, it was built by Governor of Bombay Gerald Aungier in early 1670s.

In north Mumbai, the Madh Fort, also called the Versova Fort, is located in a secluded spot in Madh Island. It was built by the Portuguese as a watchtower in the 17th century.

Although its external facade is intact, inside it is in a bad shape. Surrounded by local fishermen communities, the fort has been a popular shooting spot for Bollywood movies like "Love Ke Liye Kuchh Bhi Karega" and "Mard".

Also built by Aungier is the Sion Hillock Fort, which is currently the office of the Mumbai circle of the ASI. Sion, in central Mumbai, was a boundary between British-held Parel Island and Portuguese-held Salsette Island, the fort was built between 1669 and 1677. The fort is dilapidated.

"Not a single fort today is in a stable condition. Forts like Riwa and Mahim are surrounded by encroachments," said Anita Rane-Kothare, head of the department of ancient Indian culture of St. Xavier's College.

"This is the situation a year after the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act 2010 (Amendment and Validation) came into force January 2010," she added.

ASI's Superintending Archaeologist (Mumbai circle) M.S. Chauhan said while restoration is under way at most forts, removal of encroachment and other logistics will involve several other government agencies.

"But I do agree that once properly restored and cleaned up, the forts can definitely attract many more tourists and encourage 'fort tourism'," he said.

According to Rane-Kothare, the act strictly prohibits any construction within a 100-metre radius of the protected monument. The Sewree Fort, the Sion Fort and the Worli Fort also badly need restoration.


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India Travel Mart kicks off in Chandigarh

The 11th edition of the three-day India Travel Mart (ITM), a travel and tourism exhibition, that kicked off here Saturday, has four foreign countries and nearly 60 corporate houses participating.

ITM is hosted by Chandigarh Industrial and Tourism Development Corporation (CITCO) in association with Uttarakhand, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Jammu and Kashmir as partner states and Malaysia, Dubai and Thailand as partner countries.

'ITM will bring the best packages to Chandigarh for summer holidays, business trips, family holidays, honeymooners and adventure and eco-tourism places. Last year 54 companies had participated in ITM here but this time nearly 60 companies, from all across the country are participating in this event,' Ajay Gupta, director of ITM, told IANS Saturday.

'Main focus of the exhibition is on making travel more interesting and hassle free. There is a wide variety of attractive packages and unique tourist destinations to choose from. We see a lot of potential in Chandigarh and Punjab market and expect whopping business during these three days,' said Gupta.

ITM's participants included Malaysia, Dubai, Thailand, Turkey, CITCO, Uttarakhand, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Goa, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Kerala and leading hotels, resorts and travel agencies.

'This edition of ITM would diversify the travel experience. The main highlights of our exhibition would include special offerings of pilgrimage tourism, adventure tourism, eco tourism, health tourism and wildlife tourism,' stated Gupta.


French Tour Operator Appoints Representative in India

French tour operator Voyages Services Plus (VSP) has appointed Raj Devas, currently Manager-Sales and Marketing, VSP, who will be moving out of the company this month end, as representative for the Indian market.

The representative office will be located in Goa and is expected to start operations by September 2010.

Through this development the company intends to ensure a point of contact for the Indian travel trade, as well as promote VSP’s services in India. While the company currently focuses on FIT and incentive travel, it plans to tap the MICE outbound segment from India. The company has been working with the Indian market for the past six months and has already become its sixth important source market globally.

Devas said, “Even though VSP will have a representative office in India, it will not work directly with clients. It will still continue to work with its Indian travel trade partners and generate Indian business through them.” VSP currently works with tour operators like Thomas Cook, Saltours, Amigo Travels and Omega Travels. VSP’s objective is also to increase its travel trade partners in India. The company plans to work with major tour operators including Kesari Tours for conducting their tours in France.

VSP will also be working with Atout France to promote the country in India. It will also be participating in trade fairs to promote its services in the Indian market. Besides Paris and Nice, the company now plans to promote the India tours all over World. It also aims to increase the average length of stay of Indians in France.


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