KARACHI: The Sindh High Court (SHC) has called upon the architects to share their plans to restore the heritage structure of the historic fish markets located next to Empress Market in Saddar.
The dry and fresh fish markets were earlier located in Shahabuddin Market adjacent to Empress Market. They were demolished in 2008 by the then city government. On May 16, 2008, the SHC had stopped the authorities from further demolishing the structures. Around two dozen shopkeepers had gone to court against the demolition of the two markets as they believed they had heritage status.
The petitioners submitted that the city government had proposed the construction of a multi-storey car parking plaza on the site, for which it had issued them a notice on August 24, 2007, asking them to shift their businesses to an under-construction site. They claimed that demanding them to relocate was illegal. The site that was being offered as an alternative was far below the standard of their current location, they had argued.
The Sindh government is the actual owner of the Empress Market while the city government is only responsible for its maintenance, the petition stated. Under the law, the owner of any protected heritage cannot even destroy, alter or remove the heritage, they claimed, requesting the court to declare the proposed parking plaza project as illegal and to declare the dry and fresh fish section as an integral part of Empress Market.
Six years after the case was filed, during which period the subject parking plaza has been built, two judges of the SHC took up the matter again. The legal adviser for the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC), Sultan Ahmed, submitted a report with a detailed plan, which was taken on record.
The committee, comprising Heritage Foundation CEO Yasmin Lari, NED University’s Department of Architecture and Planning chairperson Dr Noman Ahmed and others, had compiled its findings and recommendations after examining various documents, including the site and survey plan of Empress Market and the original Shahabuddin Market.
In its report dated February 20, 2013, the committee said that the authenticated site plan of Empress Market shows that the fish market and the dry market buildings are outside the notified limits of the heritage Empress Market.
However, the committee recommended requesting architects to redesign the new parking plaza so that the heritage building can be saved.
Concluding the report, the architects recommended that the heritage committee be requested to check whether or not the fish market and dry market godowns are included in the notified heritage. If not, they should also be declared part of the heritage. Due to close proximity of new structure to the notified heritage, the committee can provide guidelines for the development of the area.
The two judges found the report confusing, as it gave the impression that since the two markets were not within the notified limits of Empress Market, they had no historic importance. Therefore, the judges directed the chairperson and members of the committee to appear before the court on October 28 and explain the contents of their report, so that appropriate orders can be passed to the authorities.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 30th, 2014.