The government approved on Wednesday amendments to a law that will allow construction of public infrastructure such as highways, bridges and airports within 100 metres of protected monuments.
The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act of 1958 prohibits any construction around 100 metres of a historical building or place accorded protection under the law.
The restriction has stalled over the years projects such as flyovers, underpasses, subways, metro stations and bus terminals to be constructed on land within the “prohibited area”.
And engineers had to redesign their projects to go around a monument’s restricted periphery.
The India Trade Promotion Organisation (ITPO) realigned its 1.1km Mathura Road-Ring Road underpass cutting through Pragati Maidan as the project was too close to Purana Quila and Sher Shah Suri’s fort. The original layout failed to evade the 100-metre cap.
The amended law will do away with such stumbling blocks, but only for projects approved and sanctioned by the Union government.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet cleared on Monday a proposal to amend the law in Parliament, following reports that the restriction is affecting the government’s development projects.
The Archaeological Survey of India’s joint director general (archaeology), RS Fonia, said the amended law will allow important public projects.
But the country’s watchdog for heritage monuments cautioned that the government must ensure adequate safeguards before allowing constructions.
“A heritage impact assessment study must be conducted before allowing a project near a protected monument. The study must ensure no harm will come to the monument,” said Major General (retired) LK Gupta, chairman of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH).
Amend the law “carefully”, and consider projects on a case-by-case basis, he suggested. “No blanket approval.”