Heritage structures left to their fate

The Chest Hospital at Erragadda and Osmania General Hospital on the banks of Musi are in two different quadrants of the city. But the ailment is the same: ill-maintenance. “Don’t enter, it has snakes and other reptiles inside,” security guards warn anyone who ventures close to the palatial structure at Erragadda. On the first floor of OGH, walking is an adventure as chunks of concrete lie scattered on the floor and keep falling at regular intervals. Signs of seepage are common to both the buildings.

While the Chest Hospital has been abandoned in totality, some portions of the OGH are still being used. The portions where the cement layering has come off in flakes has exposed corroded steel beams.

“Steel is a ductile metal and it doesn’t deteriorate if there the maintenance includes periodic cleaning and painting. But if there is flaw in the structure or corrosion, then it deteriorates,” informs Arkanti Krishnaiah, a professor of engineering at Osmania University.

Most of the buildings in Hyderabad built in the early part of 20th century by Vincent Esch, and later by the engineers of Nizam’s Public Works Department, used steel to frame the structures. Steel was the magic material that gave shape to soaring dreams of the architects. Wide corridors? No problem. Big airy rooms? No issue at all. The steel spans were thrown one across the other and plastered with cement. Steel beams covered with concrete mortar were used as pillars, arches, beams, lintels and even pediment. The magic metal of the early 19th century is proving to be a bane for heritage structures in the city in the absence of periodic maintenance.

“The collapse of Gowliguda Central Bus Station is a pointer to what is happening in the State. The government is deliberately neglecting buildings that my forefathers built to serve the society,” says Najaf Ali Khan, the greatgrandson of Nizam Osman Ali Khan, adding: “What my family would like is that these structures are saved, protected and celebrated. The OGH is an achievement in itself serving the needs of the society. If they want to build a hospital they can do it somewhere close by and at the same time restore the OGH which is still in a good shape.”

The problem of lack of maintenance is part of budgeting provisions. A case in study is that of the money at the disposal of legislators. “The money that I get for Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme allows me to spend on infrastructure. It doesn’t let me spend on maintenance. That’s why we are looking at CSR funds for maintenance. Same is the case with other funds at the disposal of legislators,” said Konda Vishweshwar Reddy at a recent meeting encapsulating the dilemma. At publicly-run hospitals, schools, colleges and other offices, most of the allocated money goes to salaries of employees and very little for building upkeep. The result: zero maintenance.

Many of the workers who spent their lifetime at the Gowliguda CBS couldn’t remember when the structure was cleaned or painted over. “They did the patchwork. The structure was never painted completely,” said P.V. Sivakumar, who retired from RTC as a station manager after a service of 33 years.

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