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Largest temple no stranger to controversy

Akshardham temple has drawn huge protests from environmentalists who were against such a large structure on the Yamuna riverbed.
By HT Correspondent | None, New Delhi
UPDATED ON DEC 27, 2007 12:53 AM IST

The sprawling Akshardham temple prominently visible from National Highway-24 (NH-24), has been mired in controversy right from the planning stage. It has drawn huge protests from environmentalists who were against such a large structure on the Yamuna riverbed.

The temple complex constructed by Bochasanwasi Sri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) was pushed at the behest of a senior BJP leader even though the riverbed was then a no-construction zone.

To justify the construction, the riverbed was declared “O” zone under the master plan in 2001, much to the chagrin of the green brigade. Changing the land use meant that public and semi-public construction could come up on the riverbed.

Another controversy errupted regarding the chunk of land allotted. Normally a temple is allotted only a 400 square metre of plot. But, changing all rules of land allotment, the Delhi Development Authority allotted a whopping 30 acres of land for Akshardham complex.

Further, quoting Akshardham’s example, the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) justified sanction for construction of the Commonwealth Games village next to the temple.

Environmentalist have been opposing the construction of the Commonwealth Games village saying that one wrong cannot justify another wrong.

Temple authorities also had apprehensions about the height of the buildings that would come up at the Games village to accommodate approximately 8000-odd athletes and other personnel. Anything that would mar the view of their beautiful structure was a no-no for them and finally showing enough flexibility in accommodating their concerns, it was decided that only 4-storeyed buildings would come up on the facing side of the temple while the higher ones (eight or nine storeyed) would be constructed away from the temple. Mock ups were also held at the site to satisfy the temple authorities that the Games Village will not affect the temple skyline.

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