An open drain passing through Mehrauli Archaeological Park poses threat to late Mughal era monument being restored by the state archaeological department. Despite several reminders to Delhi Jal Board (DJB) and South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) by the department, no civic agency is willing to take the onus of this drain.
The drain in question is located barely two metres away from the boundary wall of an unknown tomb where the conservation work is going on. It carries sewage from Mehrauli village to the Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) located in the vicinity of Mehrauli-Gurgaon (MG) Road. Although a large portion of the drain is covered but around 15 metres near the structure has been left open.
A senior official of the department said both agencies put the blame on the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and are not coming forward to resolve the issue. “Their argument is that because the drain is laid on the DDA’s land so the authority should take its responsibility. We had a meeting in Delhi lieutenant governor’s office earlier but the issue could not be resolved,” he said.
Large portion of this tomb, another sepulcher with jharokha, and a horse stable were not visible until recently as they were buried under the debris. The department and the conservator were surprised when they discovered the actual height, hidden chambers and graves.
The restoration work is being carried out in collaboration with the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH).
“When we started scientific digging and cleaning process, we realised that actually this tomb was a two-levelled structure. The lower level is around three metre below the ground level. These are new discoveries,” Swapna Liddle, convenor, INTACH Delhi chapter.
Similarly, ruins of adjoining tomb with jharokha and horse stable were also partially hidden. These monuments are recorded in the heritage listings but less information is available about them. As part of the conservation, 19 buildings in the park are to be restored.
“All hard work and money will go in vain if the drain is not shifted or covered with immediate effect. In monsoon, it may flood the tomb,” she said.
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The issue was also mentioned before the Delhi high court last week, which is hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by INTACH seeking preservation and protection of about 80 monuments in the park.
A senior official of the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) said all stakeholders are likely to meet soon to find out the solution to the problem. “Until four years ago, the drain was being maintained by the corporation. But it is now with the DDA. Following the court directions, a meeting is to be convened in which representatives of all agencies will be present. Hopefully, the issue will be resolved,” he said.