Capital stuck in development vs heritage debate | delhi | Hindustan Times
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Capital stuck in development vs heritage debate

The Archaeological Survey of India's (ASI) stop work notice issued to the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) for its ongoing work at Janpath has again sparked the development versus heritage debate.

delhi Updated: Nov 12, 2011 23:27 IST
Nivedita Khandekar

The Archaeological Survey of India's (ASI) stop work notice issued to the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) for its ongoing work at Janpath has again sparked the development versus heritage debate.

The notice to DMRC was issued as the work at Janpath for its proposed Central Secretariat-Kashmere Gate line fell within 300 metres of Jantar Mantar, a protected monument.

The ASI had earlier issued similar notices to the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) and the New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) for their parking projects, which too fell within 300 metres of protected monuments.

The government's stringent amendment to the Archaeological Act has a background.

In 2006, it was announced in the Parliament that as many as 35 protected monuments across the country — 12 of them in Delhi — were lost due to rapid urbanisation and development.

Is the law really against development?
AGK Menon, conservation architect, trashes the amendment. "It (the amendment) is a knee-jerk reaction to ban any construction within 100 metres of a monument and more of a draconian reaction to the perception that monuments would be lost to development."

Disagreed KT Ravindran, an urban planner: "The purpose of the amendment was to bring in a national statutory body — the National Monument Authority (NMA) — to negotiate monument-specific development. The idea was not to block development around monuments but to facilitate it."

AK Jain, another urban planner and former commissioner (planning) of Delhi Development Authority vehemently favoured heritage, "There should be no compromise at least within 100 metres of a protected monument. Heritage is our identity. Delhi is spread over 1,483 sq km area. Can't we leave space around monuments untouched?"

What is development?
Jain argued the faulty definition of development. "The developmental work today is pro-rich and benefits only the real estate lobby. The government should look for only welfare projects for the masses."

Echoed Ravindran, "The ‘greater common good' is what should define development."

In the scenario of continued delay vis-à-vis the implementation of the amendment, Menon pointed out certain possibilities in the long term. The law in its existing form will set people against heritage, he said.

The NMA can provide amicable solutions vis-à-vis heritage byelaws otherwise, Menon warned, "People's pressure will ultimately lead to amendment in the law again."