Chandigarh to safeguard its 2000 Heritage Manhole Covers

Chandigarh, the city of Modern India is full to the brim with modernity. The built environment of the city is modern to the last detail, extending to its manhole covers.

Along with assisting in designing the city and its important buildings, Architect Le Corbusier associate, Pierre Jeanneret had also designed nearly 2,000 cast iron manhole covers that bear an impression of the Chandigarh Map. 

Recently in the wake of some manhole covers being theft, the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation had decided to replace these manhole covers with the with precast concrete covers, for which the proposal had to be tabled in the General House meeting on 30th December 2019. The proposal worth was estimated to be ₹75 lakhs. As the proposal was tabled, discussed and approved, it was decided that the heritage manhole covers, which are stolen to be auctioned in the international markets for lakhs of rupees will henceforth, be preserved in the museum, while some will be kept in store.

The issue of manhole covers theft came to light in November 2010, when a Paris-based auction house, Artcurial, sold one of these for ₹10.67 lakhs. Later, a number of manhole covers went missing, the most recent one being stolen from Sector 22. 

As reports suggest. many manhole covers of Chandigarh have been auctioned in foreign countries at high prices, in the range of ₹10 lakhs to ₹15 lakhs. The city’s Sector 20 has the highest number of manhole covers, which is 78, which is followed by 77 manhole covers in Sector 8, as many as 76 in Sector 35 and 27 covers at Punjab Engineering College (PEC).

As per the approval, along with replacing the manholes with concrete covers, the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation has also decided that paver blocks of 60mm/80mm thickness will be installed at Pipliwala town in Manimajra at a cost of Rs 57.41 lakhs. Of the total amount, about Rs 10 lakhs will be spent on dismantling the existing concrete. Dismantling cement concrete in one part will cost Rs 6,17,550, while demolishing the concrete in another part will cost Rs 3,81,279.

At Sundarnagar of Mauli Jagran area, PCC tiles of Rs 76.91 lakhs will be installed. At markets of sectors 27, 28 and 30, an amount of Rs 51.55 lakhs will be spent on installation of new pavers blocks. In the main bazaar of Manimajra, 60 mm thick paver blocks will be installed amounting to Rs 98.66 lakhs, of which Rs 15 lakhs will be spent only on dismantling the existing ones. 

Since the installation of precast concrete manholes in place of the original heritage value ones of being done to safeguard the original ones, the officials of the Urban Planning Department have suggested a away to maintain the value of the design and respect the heritage of the city.  In this view, it is being suggested that the same designs be replicated on the cemented manhole covers with the help of moulds. An official said, “They can make moulds from the existing ones and very easily the design can be transferred on the concrete.”

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