Undertaken by Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), the second phase of the restoration of the Flora Fountain in south Mumbai (Hutatma Chowk, Fort) is fast underway.
Two years after reconstruction work was undertaken, the iconic Flora Fountain might soon be open for public viewing. Phase one, which includes the restoration of the statue, is expected to be completed by November-end and phase two set will be completed in February 2019.
The second phase of restoration began when BMC finally ended their search for a credible contractor—post rejecting seven consecutive tenders that all exceeded the cost estimate by a grand margin—with the acceptance of the tender from HiTech Architects.
When the Flora Fountain project was conceptualised in March 2016, its estimate was pegged at INR 2.67 crores. The civic body missed several deadline since the work began in September 2016, leading the cost to increase by ₹15-20 lakh. Phase one was initially slated to be complete within six months, however, is now delayed by more than one and a half years. The primary reason for the delay was the unanticipated damage to the structure and the missing nose and neck of statue.
Sudarshan Shrisath, sub-engineer, heritage department, said,
“When we started the work, we had not anticipated the extent of the structure’s damage. There were layers of paint which had to be removed in order to expose the cracks. The cement, which was filled in the cracks during the earlier repair work, had hardened over time and had to be chiselled out with the help of a micro-chisel. This took hours. During the restoration work, we also found that the Flora statue did not have a nose and a neck which we made and fitted on the rod inside the body. As it is a heritage structure we had to do the work delicately,” as reported by Hindustan Times.
Inaugurated in 1869, the Flora Fountain Mumbai is made of Portland stone and was dedicated to Governor Bartle Frere. Another challenge faced during restoration was posed by the fact that there was no way to judge the complex water engineering system put in place in 1864. This was because there were no maps of the pipelines inside the structure.
“Our initial attempt to understand the water engineering was all based on trial and error, and this took a lot of time,” said Shrisath.
Moreover, the work was also delayed by the extended monsoon last year. Vikas Dilawari, the conservation architect for the project told Hindustan Times,
“When it comes to restoration work, monsoon is a bad time. We need either hot or cold climate. Last year, the extended monsoons delayed work.”
“We used steam cleaning to clean the structure. Now we are in the final stage and citizens and tourists will soon be able to view Flora Fountain in its full glory by February next year,” Dilwari said.
Phase two includes beautification and conversion of the space into a garden. The civic body plans to place benches made of wood, build Victorian grills around the structure and build stone roads.
The final restoration work will include applying the final chemical coat to ensure that the fountain lasts another 100-150 years, if maintained well, said Shrisath. The restoration had been taken up after civic chief Ajoy Mehta reserved ₹5 crore for the revamp of the heritage structures in the 2016 budget. The civic body has been repairing 17 heritage structures, of which two – Cooperage Bandstand and Kothari Pyau, outside Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus – were inaugurated earlier this week on 10th October.
The 153-Year-Old Flora Fountain was commissioned by the Agri-Horticultural Society of Western India and built at a total cost of Rs. 47,000 in the nineteenth century. The design was prepared by R. Norman Shaw and the fountain was sculpted in imported Portland stone by British sculptor James Forsythe. The iconic structure features four mythological figurines along with the figure of ‘Flora’, the Roman Goddess, that sits atop the fountain.
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