Recent move by the central government to permit infrastructure projects within the ‘prohibited’ area around monuments has alerted the conservationists in Tamil Nadu. According to them, this move will give free hand to the government to undertake infrastructure project very close to the existing monuments and heritage structures.
In the recently concluded winter session of the Parliament, the Lok Sabha passed the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Amendment) Bill, 2017 which allows the central government to undertake public works, projects essential to the public or any construction within the prohibited 100m radius of centrally notified archaeological sites. The amendment Bill yet to get Rajya Sabha nod to become an Act. It may be remembered here that the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958, was amended in 2010 to prohibit construction within the prohibited area of a centrally protected monument and site.
Many infrastructure projects like Metro projects involve drilling and use of heavy machinery around monuments which the archaeological experts feel may cause irreparable damage to the structure, foundation and aesthetics of the monuments. They cite the recent example of the ongoing metro rail project that caused damage to some heritage structures including the Dr Ambedkar Government Law College in the Madras high court complex and Victoria Public Hall.
Of the 3,600 odd monuments and sites maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) across the country, Tamil Nadu houses 410 of them, including two world heritage sites at Mamallapuram and Thanjavur. So, the conservationists want the government to have a relook at the recent amendment to the Act.