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More funds for monument upkeep

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Scope of maintenance works covered by National Monuments Fund expanded

To better support the upkeep of monuments here, the Government has expanded the scope of maintenance works covered by the National Monuments Fund and will disburse double the amount of money for such works this year.

With this move, maintenance works for lightning protection, removal of vegetation close to the monument to prevent damage and as a safety measure, and arborist reports to support the removal of vegetation can now be co-funded.

Other maintenance works already covered in the fund include termite inspections, investigation of building defects and cracks in structures, and spot repair of artefacts or features.

The National Heritage Board's (NHB) Preservation of Sites and Monuments division administers the fund, which includes a component for maintenance work.

Following feedback from monument owners, NHB expanded the scope of the maintenance component allowing for more funds to be disbursed.

This year, $2.2 million from the fund will be given to 17 national monuments, of which $200,000 will be used to co-fund maintenance works of 16 monuments. Last year, $100,000 was given to 20 monuments for such works.

The larger amount awarded this year for maintenance works is due to the wider scope of works covered, and "reflects the monument owners' growing awareness of the importance of conducting regular maintenance works to restrain building deterioration", said NHB.

The fund also has a restoration component, to cover urgent structural repairs and works that preserve the historical and architectural features of the buildings.

The Chesed-El Synagogue and the Abdul Gafoor Mosque, built in 1905 and 1907 respectively, will have both their maintenance and restoration works co-funded this year. The synagogue will receive close to $400,000 this year.

The fund's expanded scope for maintenance means the synagogue will now be able to alleviate costs of trimming or removing a khaya tree with overhanging branches that pose a risk to the monument, and costs of the arborist report.

Mr Sam Sassoon, chairman of the synagogue, said: "Without the wider scope of the fund and the arborist report, the problem probably won't get the attention it deserves."

Over the years, the synagogue had other works done, including the restoration of a roof supported by specially crafted Corinthian columns and the installation of new tiled floors identical to the original marble flooring. The mosque will receive close to $500,000 this year.

Structural investigation of its roof and pinnacles is being done.

A sundial, adorned with the names of Islamic prophets in Arabic calligraphy, will also be repainted.

Mr Mohamed Abdul Jaleel, who chairs the mosque, expects the maintenance and restoration works to cost between $1 million and $1.5 million.

"The money which we receive will help the mosque, as well as the community which can benefit from the heritage here," he said.

The National Monuments Fund was introduced with a first tranche of $5 million in 2008, then a second tranche of $11.77 million in 2015.

Amounts disbursed are individually assessed based on the severity and scope of work required.