The governments of three states—namely Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Bihar—have asked the Centre to speed up the approval of new and old construction projects that have been dormant owing to their proximity to heritage sites and structures.
Reportedly, the states approached the Cultural Ministry for the same and it is expected that around 180 private projects that have been affected will be assessed in the next few days.
Commenting on this move, A Vijaya, Director - Programme, Architectural Heritage Division, INTACH (Indian National Trust for Art & Cultural Heritage) says, “The state governments requesting the Centre to speed up approval is valid. However, there is a process to assess if the projects are impacting the physical and visual integrity and access to the monuments and to what extent, especially for large-scale, public- private projects. And if there is an impact, can it be mitigated through planning measures? The National Monuments Authority (NMA) does have a system of undertaking ‘heritage impact assessments’ before approving a project. This needs some time but is essential to avoid any irreversible damage to our monuments.”
Recently, the ministry had launched an online application processing system called NOC to aid granting of approval by NMA for building projects in prohibited areas around monuments in six states: Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, Jharkhand and Telangana.
NMA, under the Cultural Ministry, is now seeking to work on digitisation of local bodies in the three states. According to the new system it has initiated, the time for online approval for projects around monuments protected by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) now falls to under 30 days compared to the previous duration of four months. It is now taking steps to integrate this portal with respective states to expedite all requests.
As per ASI regulations, an area up to 100 m from protected monuments is treated as prohibited for construction.
“In 2010, the Government amended the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act (AMASR) 1958 to include certain subsections to demarcate prohibited and regulated areas around ASI-protected monuments and prepare heritage bylaws for each monument. The prohibition is in accordance with the Act but has been a concern. There are historic settlements and habitations that cannot be completely eliminated from development. In many cases, these are part of the integrity of the protected monument, although not within the protected limits. Development of such areas should be managed through proper guidelines, repair and renovations,” adds Vijaya.