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Allowing constructions around protected monuments could wreak havoc on historical sites

Not only will such a move affect the aesthetics of monuments, and the way that our cities and towns look; but it will also put a lot of strain on some very ancient sites that are significant historically and culturally. Modern infrastructure projects such as highways and bridges have been known to be responsible for weakening foundations of ancient monuments that they are built around, and there is a high risk of losing important archaeological material to disruptions caused by construction.

editorials Updated: Jan 08, 2018 19:33 IST
Hindustan Times
Heritage monumnets,ASI,Archaeological Survey of India
Given the sorry state of many conservation efforts in the country and the rampant encroachments on spaces occupied by monuments, the amendment to the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act will only open the door (Sonu Mehta/HT)

In a country with as rich a history as India, the protection of monuments and sites of archaeological importance should be a priority. But the amendment to the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act (AMSAR), which was passed in the Lok Sabha last week (and has not yet been introduced in the Rajya Sabha), could belie that priority. The amendment will allow construction of public infrastructure – highways, bridges and airports – within 100 metres of monuments protected by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). The original Act, which was passed in 2010, prohibited any construction around 100 metres of a historical building or place.

This move will affect the aesthetics of the affected monuments and also put a lot of strain on some ancient sites. Modern infrastructure projects such as highways and bridges have been known to be responsible for weakening foundations of ancient monuments that they are built around, and there is a high risk of losing important archaeological material to disruptions caused by construction. Given the sorry state of many conservation efforts in the country and the rampant encroachments on spaces occupied by monuments (a 2013 Comptroller and Auditor General of India report found that 546 of the 1655 monuments surveyed had been encroached upon), such an amendment will only open the door to more damage to important historical sites and less concern for conservation efforts.

Protected monuments are a national treasure, and the government needs to do more to protect them, instead of diluting even existing minimum standards. The need of the hour is to ensure that development projects, modern infrastructure and the interests of builders are not allowed to play havoc with buildings of historical importance.

First Published: Jan 08, 2018 19:33 IST