Prashant Thakur, Chairman of CIDCO Ltd., legislator and president of the Raigad district Bharatiya Janata Party, launched the Rs. 17 crores Belapur Fort Restoration and Beautification project at a function held at the foot of the fort on June 16.

Speaking on the occasion he commended the vice chairman and managing director of CIDCO, Lokesh Chandra, for his priorities in approving projects in the city and called upon him to take up the work, as suggested by legislator Manda Mhatre, of constructing a worthy, grand gateway to the Shree Govardhani Mata temple enroute the Belapur fort. He commended the relentless follow-ups by Manda Mhatre with CIDCO authorities to get the Belapur fort conservation and beautification project sanctioned. He expressed gratitude and pride for being called to lay the foundation stone for this historical project in Navi Mumbai.

Legislators Manda Mhatre and Sandeep Naik, CIDCO VC and MD Lokesh Chandra, Navi Mumbai Municipal Commissioner Dr. N. Ramaswami, Joint MD of CIDCO Ashok Shingare, corporator Sunil Patil, Sampat Shewale, former corporator and Chief Engineer (Navi Mumbai) K. K. Varkhedkar also graced the dais on the occasion.

Prashant Thakur further added that like the ports-led development initiated by Union Minister Nitin Gadkari, Maharashtra has initiated the forts-led development as it is very essential to conserve our historical destinations.

Sandeep Naik too commended the CIDCO MD and one and all responsible for successfully getting the project started. He further called upon the CIDCO and NMMC chiefs to take up conservation and restoration of the historical sites in the Northern part of the city (where his Airoli constituency is located).

Lokesh Chandra urged the architects and contractor working on the project to do research of engineering and other elements of the period they are restoring.

He informed that ‘the Belapur fort was built by the Siddis of Janjira in 1560 A.D., conquered by the Portuguese in 1582 conquered by the Marathas under the leadership of Chimmaji Appa in 1737 and captured by the British in 1817.

CIDCO has assigned the work of developing 5 acres of the fort area as a recreational park, a one day picnic/tourist destination and special repairs, conservation and restoration of the structures or ruins to Architects Kiran Kalamdani and Anjali Kalamdani of M/s Kimaya Architects and Savani Heritage Construction Pvt. Ltd.

CIDCO has so far done the hardware of the city by constructing buildings, infrastructure and facilities and the present Belapur fort project marks the initiation of the soft elements of the city. An art center and modern art gallery near Utsav chowk in Kharghar are such initiatives in the pipeline.

A center for exhibiting the rich maritime and naval history of the West coast will be established in the restored Tehalni Burj (Watch tower). The existing ruins will be restored to bring back the history of 4 centuries ago, for which contemporary material and style would be adopted and information disseminated about the biodiversity in the location and maintain its balance.

The square burj in the chowk near the Palm Beach road is the access point to the upper deck of the fort. This is mistaken as the fort itself. The square burj will be restored where the information center will be set up. The primary facility centre and a parking lot will be developed in the open space near it. There will be two options to access the fort, walking or by battery operated vehicle.

The historical places of the fort will be revived and for that complimentary facilities will also be provided. A stairway leading from the arrival plaza and the ramp will also be made available. There will be provisions for senior citizens and differently- abled to reach all the access points of the fort. Facilities like toilets, food court and cafeteria, resting places, watch towers at higher spots, etc. would facilitate the comfort factor for tourists. The ticket counter, amphitheater with seating for 324 people with Ashler stone work where cultural events and other programs can be held, 2 souvenir shops will also be constructed Small paths will be paved through the trees while constructing the protection wall of the fort which will be consolidated with safety railing.

The scenic view of the creek will be visible from the top of the Burj. The project on which CIDCO and Kimaya Architects have been working since 8 years is expected to be completed in 2 years’.

Manda Mhatre, who has been credited by the dignitaries for pursuing this initiative expressed deep gratitude to Lokesh Chandra for fructifying the project after four previous MDs of CIDCO pursued the same. She demanded the construction of a grand gateway to the Shree Govrdhani temple enroute the fort that would add grandeur to the locale housing the NMMC headquarters in the vicinity and the historical fort, temple and pond, as a memorable tourist destination.

Manda Mhatre introduced an element of traditional color and grandeur by organizing the tying of traditonal phetas (turbans) and mavalas (Maratha soldiers) led by Shivaji Maharaj, Sambhaji Maharaj and Rajaram Maharaj as a child with Jijau Mata in the traditional attire that inspired a standing ovation at the function.