“There were many small cavities in the walls which was destroying the fort. Since the fort is located near the sea, we had no choice but to use cement to strengthen the walls,” says an official from the state archaeological department on the condition of anonymity.
The state archaeological department and the Archaeological Survey of India follow the method of retaining the original look and feel of any heritage site while restoring it. Cement is usually avoided as in the past, cement was never used.
The fort was originally built by using rubble stone masonry and lime-mortar plastering which gave the fort is unique look. “We could not use lime as it is not available easily in such a large quantity. Moreover we had to carry out the restoration work immediately to save the fort. We plan to give the final touches using lime plastering when the stock arrives,” adds the official.
The restoration work began late last year with a budget of Rs. 60 lakh. The restoration work is supposed to be completed before the monsoons begin this year.
“It is good that the state archaeological department noticed the deterioration, took interest in the matter and started the restoration work. But being a Grade I heritage structure, they should have retained the original look and the character of the fort rather than using cement,” says P. Kapur, trustee of the Bandra Bandstand Residents’ Trust, the trust that manages the entire area starting from the Bandra Bandstand promenade till the Amphitheatre and the fort. “If not the entire fort, at least the original look of the entrance to the fort should have been retained,” he adds.
In the 16th century, the fort was used an important watchtower between the Salcette Island annexed by the Portuguese and the islands held by the British. Over the years, due to lack of maintenance and continuous deterioration, the fort saw a dwindling number of visitors and thus became the haven to couples and drug addicts.
“The fort was dilapidated and on the verge of collapsing. As a resident of the Bandra Bandstand area, I come here often. The fort does not look the same anymore. It does not look like a Grade I heritage structure; instead it looks just like a new construction,” says Nandini Joshi, a resident of the area.