The National Monument Authority (NMA) on Tuesday cleared the Northern Railways' proposal to replace the 150-year-old Loha Pul on the Yamuna — an essential connectivity for entire eastern India. This is also the first big-ticket infrastructure project cleared by the NMA.
The proposal, pending since a decade, had faced a number of hurdles since its conceptualisation as the site is next to Salimgarh Fort, part of the Red Fort complex, a World Heritage Site.
Heritage authorities had stalled work for the piers in 2006 as the then alignment meant cutting across additional portion of the fort wall. Besides, an amendment in the archaeological act in 2010 banned any new construction within 100 metres of a protected monument.
The railways roped in Indian National Trust for Arts and Cultural Heritage for study of cultural and heritage impact and the latter proposed the alternative alignment. According to its report, the new alignment joins the existing line before it touches the fort wall.
Terming it "essential" in public interest, the NMA meeting cleared the project on the condition that construction will happen beyond 100 metres of the protected wall.
"We also suggested to convert the Loha Pul into a showcase of 'industrial heritage' once the new bridge is ready," said a member, who attended the meeting. Railway officials said the wells constructed in 2006-07 are strong enough for the piers to be erected on it.
"The work is likely to take about 1 ½ to 2 years once the tenders are opened," said Dharm Singh, chief administrative officer (construction projects) of northern railways.
An official said whether or not the old bridge would be used for vehicular traffic later remains to be seen.