Expert concerns leave Rajgad fort ropeway project in knots

They cite the ecological impact of the project and the threat to the structure of the historic Rajgad fort
The Rajgad fort is currently accessible only on foot through four different routes. (HT)
The Rajgad fort is currently accessible only on foot through four different routes. (HT)
Updated on Jun 23, 2021 05:19 PM IST
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ByManasi Deshpande

PUNE Environment experts, fort conservationists, and trekking experts have raised doubts about the proposed ropeway to be built on Rajgad fort. They fear that this plan may affect the eligibility of Rajgad, and other 13 forts, to be marked as world heritage sites by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (Unesco).

Experts have also raised concerns about the ecological impact of this project and the threat to the historic structure of the fort.

On June 12, the state department of tourism and the Indian Port Rail and Ropeway Corporation Limited (IPRCL) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to build a ropeway at Rajgad fort in the Pune district.

Rajgad fort, which is located in Velhe tehsil, is a historically important fort as it was the capital of the Maratha empire under the rule of Chhatrapati Shivaji, until the capital was moved to Raigad fort. It is also a popular tourist destination and a favourite spot for trekkers on an overnight stay.

The state tourism department has proposed the ropeway project for easy accessibility to the fort.

“A few years back the state tourism department had sent a proposal to nominate Rajgad and 13 other forts for the world heritage tag. Now they are advancing with the ropeway project. This will jeopardise the efforts to get a world heritage tag for Rajgad. Also, there are currently four access points to the fort on foot. There is no need for a fifth. The fort is already overburdened with an overwhelming number of tourists and trekkers. This project will just increase the crowd. It will pose a threat to the historic structure of the fort,” said Prasad Dangat, president, Fort Conservation Committee, an NGO involved with fort restoration and conservation.

Saili Palande-Datar, an environmentalist and history researcher, also opposes the project, citing archaeological and environmental concerns.

“The administration should do a feasibility report of this project. Its environmental and archaeological impact needs to be studied. This area is a sensitive zone in the Western ghats. So before going ahead with this project all of these documents should be in the public domain. There should be a public hearing on the objections related to this project,” said Palande-Datar

Some experts have claimed that there is not enough space on the Rajgad to construct a ropeway. “Unlike Raigad, Rajgad doesn’t have enough space. So the administration might want to rethink the location. It can be built on a nearby plane surface from which Rajgad is accessible,” said Umesh Zirpe, head of Giripremi.

Activists have threatened to go to court if their concerns are not addressed by the government. Earlier, speaking in Pune, deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar strongly defended the project and claimed that a ropeway would increase accessibility to the fort for all age groups. “Those who are opposing it now are young. When they turn 60 and want to visit Rajgad, what will they do? There was opposition to the ropeway at Raigad as well. We need to think about all people,” said Pawar after a recent Covid review meeting.

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Sunday, December 05, 2021