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Heritage Act May Be Amended To Make Way For Public Projects
September 30, 2016


Heritage Act May Be Amended To Make Way For Public Projects

http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/heritage-act-may-be-amended-to-make-way-for-public-projects/articleshow/54593987.cms

30 Septmenber 2016

New Delhi: Mughal emperor Akbar’s final resting place in Sikandra may lose its tranquillity with a flyover built bang opposite it. So may Tipu Sultan’s palace in Mysuru with expansion of a hospital next door. Prodded by infrastructure ministries, the Narendra Modi government is readying to amend the law that forbids any new construction close to protected monuments.

The culture ministry is preparing to seek Cabinet nod to a proposal to allow construction in “public interest” for projects in close vicinity to some protected monuments, officials told ET.

If cleared, the proposal will exempt key government projects from provisions of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act (AMASR), 2010, which bars new construction within 100 metres of a protected monument.

Roads and infrastructure being built by the government are among the projects being considered for the exemption. The ministry is expected to argue that certain projects may be permitted for construction related to public works and projects essential to public.

When contacted, Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma said a decision was pending. “Yes, consultations are on but no final decision has been taken yet,” the minister told ET.

A clutch of infrastructure ministries backed by the government’s premier think tank NITI Aayog have been pushing for such an exemption citing projects that have been stuck due to the “rigid” heritage rule book, said one of the officials, who did not wish to be identified.

Some other government departments have even proposed doing away with the 100 metres rule altogether, he said.

The Archaeological Survey of India – custodian of India’s monuments – has raised eyebrows with its proposal to the culture ministry that an ordinance be moved to quickly settle the issue and grant exemptions to get stuck projects going.

STUMBLING BLOCK

Brought in rather belatedly to protect heritage structures from encroachment and haphazard new construction, the AMASR Amendment Act is now being viewed as a roadblock by many in the Modi government, a person familiar with the matter said.

Besides key infrastructure ministries, several members of Parliament have also written to the culture ministry protesting the alleged “antidevelopment” nature of the AMASR Act.

However, the culture ministry is wary of excessive dilution in the provisions of the law and is likely to restrict the number of projects that may be exempted from the 100 metres rule, the official cited earlier said.

Several rounds of meetings have been held over the highway project off Akbar’s tomb, officials said, even as conservationists argue that such projects could permanently mar the skyline around such imposing heritage structures.

In case of Rani ki Vaav, the stepwell in Gujarat’s Patan which was recently inscribed on UNESCO’S world heritage register, the alignment of a railway line planned around the monument has finally changed in deference to the provisions of the existing law.

Officials said there are some cases where the 100 metres rule has been a genuine problem. For instance, houses built around monuments for decades cannot be renovated due to the rule book.

Then, there are cases like that of the village just below the Tabo monastery in Spiti Valley where construction has come to a standstill because the entire village falls within the stipulated radius.