Tourists will have to be regulated at the caves of Ajanta and Ellora if the heritage caves are to be preserved better. This is the recommendation of an international expert panel.
After a two-day inspection, the four-member international expert panel of Japan Bank of International Cooperation (JBIC) prepared a list of urgent actions needed to be taken to conserve the second century BC caves better.
"The tourists have to be regulated to preserve the caves better. The pressure, which originates mainly from mismanagement, has to reduce on these monuments to make any conservation plan work.
The panel has given initial recommendations on creating a better tourist management plan. MTDC has already been briefed about it," said ASI Deputy Director General RK Sharma.
The panel was "disappointed" to see no comprehensive action plan on preservation and management of the caves, sources revealed. It has now ordered the local authorities, including Archaeological Survey of India, Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) and the state government to prepare a comprehensive audio-visual conservation plan for the sites and submit the same to the panel.
Activities will only be sanctioned after the plan is submitted.
Apart from seepage and rock fall, even the lights installed inside the Ellora caves are damaging the sculptures and none will be allowed anymore, the action plan stated. Those already installed will have to be removed immediately, the panel claimed.
The panel has also instructed the government to construct contour drains in all the caves of Ajanta, Ellora and Aurangabad by next monsoon to avoid seepage and further destruction of the sculptures during the monsoons.
"The sculptures might suffer long-term damage from the lights - it should have been much softer. It was also aesthetically poor. All these will have to be removed and till further notice, no lights will be installed inside these caves," he claimed.
The focus has been identified as tackling seepage and rock fall. "We have been told to start of the work of contour drains and they should be complete by this monsoon," Sharma added.
The documentation will be done with the help of private agencies. "It is going to be a huge exercise. We are in the process of identifying the agency which will work with us," he added.
A part of JBIC Ajanta project, the team comprising N Inaba from Japan, Christopher Young from UK, Graham Brooks from Australia and Rodolfo Lussane from Italy along with RK Sharma, deputy director general, ASI, has finalised a three-year master plan for the UNESCO heritage site.