National Monument Authority established to stop heritage building encroachment, destruction

The two articles below discuss the newly established National Monument Authority (NMA), a division of the Archaeological Survey of India created to effectively catalog heritage monuments and enforce anti-encroachment laws. The NMA is expected to facilitate more information sharing between the central government agencies and local communities in which heritage structures exist. Amendments made to Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act (1958) last year provisioned for the creation of the NMA and outlined its duties.

Unfortunately, this first instance of the NMA, which has been set up in 24 districts of western Uttar Pradesh, will not have a presence in the Mathura District or in the Kalwal district of Haryana or the Bharatpur district of Rajasthan. However, it is expected that the NMA will be established in Braj in the near future.

The NMA is hiring development and heritage experts. This is an ideal time for heritage conscious professionals with requisite skills to acquire a position with an authoritative body charged with making heritage preservation a priority.

06.04.2011 (IANS) Encroachers in Agra and the surrounding area will no longer have it easy, with the state government setting up a panel and announcing heavy fines to tackle the menace and monitor the condition of nearly 400 monuments, including several magnificent Mughal-era structures, in 24 districts of western Uttar Pradesh.

Agra’s divisional commissioner Amrit Abhijat has been made the chairman of this body, mandated to act on a continuous basis against encroachers, under the amended provisions of the Ancient Monuments Protection Act, 1958.

Giving information on the new guidelines and norms to be followed in respect of new and old constructions around the 397 monuments protected by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), Abhijat said anyone encroaching or constructing new structures without following the new rules can be jailed for two years and fined Rs.1 lakh.

The norms relate to restrictions imposed within 100 metres and 200 metres of a monument.

In Agra, where almost all historical monuments have seen a surfeit of encroachments and where the smaller and the lesser-known ones have been virtually overshadowed by new constructions, experts have welcomed the new step.

“There was a lot of confusion and contradictions and the permission was delayed even for repairs. But now the whole system has been streamlined and some welcome changes have been made which would help make conservation easier,” said Surendra Sharma, president of the Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society.

Agra residents say that over the years, the state government and the ASI authorities have miserably failed to take care of several historical monuments in Agra, the seat of power for several Mughal emperors in the 15th and 16th centuries.

Almost all the Mughal monuments have been dwarfed by encroachments that not only make movement difficult but also pose a serious threat to these historical buildings.

Though the Taj Mahal, surrounded by a crowd of colonies, has been able to breathe easy because of the Supreme Court and international concern for its safety, other monuments are not so lucky.

Over the years, the government’s indifference and corrupt practices have ensured that no action was taken against people who built houses and places of worship around most of these monuments, say residents.

The Delhi Gate close to the Raja Mandi station finds itself threatened by new constructions, the Roman Catholic cemetery near Civil Court is now surrounded by a picture hall, a petrol pump and a shopping complex.

Other historical buildings or remnants like Jodhabai’s Chatri, Jaswant Singh ki Chatri, Chini ka Roza, Humayun’s mosque, Babar’s Ram Bagh, Barahkhambha, and scores of other valuable architectural sites are under threat of losing their identity as encroachers continue to gobble up every inch of space.

Some of the dilapidated landmarks are being used as cowsheds or havens for anti-social elements by squatters.

Outside Agra, the Fatehpur Sikri complex continues to be threatened by illegal activities of the mining mafia which has been carrying on without fear, even though the Supreme Court has given a categorical directive to the district authorities to stop mining in the area.

So far, the ASI has been helpless to the challenge posed by illegal constructions around protected monuments in Agra. Though it has been regularly shooting out letters to the Agra Development Authority citing flagrant violations of the 1958 Act, no action had been taken on its complaints.

Illegal constructions near protected monuments come under hammer

Agra: Here’s a caution word for the ongoing constructions or encroachments within the prohibited areas around the monuments of national importance! Illegal structures near the protected monuments including Taj Mahal are poised to come heavily under the Central government.

The Centre has constituted a National Monument Authority (NMA) and designated Commissioner Agra as the competent authority for 24 districts of Western Uttar Pradesh to prevent any unauthorized construction activity in and around the protected monuments.

The Commissioner would be responsible for sanctioning any construction activity within the radius of protected monuments.

After accepting the responsibility, the Commissioner has issued directions for identification of various unauthorized constructions and encroachments near the monuments.

“Various illegal encroachments and unauthorized structures near or around the protected monuments in 24 districts are being identified through surveys. Thereafter, the enquiry to demolish these structures would be initiated,” said Amrit Abhijat, Commissioner Agra.

Until now, this provision was enjoyed by Delhi-based head office of Archaeological Survey of India

In order to prohibit the illegal constructions activities near the heritage and protected monuments, the Central Government, last year had brought amendments in its Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958.

Under the amendment, the National Authority has been constituted so as to give consent for the construction activity within the monument radius.

As per the new amendment, a minimum of 100 metres area beginning from the boundary limit of the protected monument is specified as the ‘prohibited area’, beyond which, in all directions, a minimum of 200 metres is categorized as ‘regulated area’.

Thus, the residents in the protected area (100m radius) of the protected monuments cannot raise any construction and in regulated area, they could undertake construction, repair and altercation only with the permission of the NMA.

Thus, any construction, repair, alteration, whatsoever, in and around the restricted areas will be prohibited and any other repair work could be undertaken only with the permission of the NMA.

Districts under NMA

Agra, Aligarh, Auraiya, Bagpat, Bijnaur, Bareily, Badaun, Bulandshehar, Ghaziabad, Etah, Etawah, Hathras (Mahamaya Nagar), Kannauj, Farrukhabad, Faizabad, Pilibhit, Saharanpur, Meerut, Muradabad, Muzzafarnagar, Mainpuri, Jyotiba Phule Nagar, Kanshiram Nagar.

  • Katie Jo Walter

    The PDF linked in this article shows that the feared flyover in Vrindavan cannot be legally constructed. Unfortunately, the provisions about repair and renovation or reconstruction could be shamelessly used to carry out the project.

    The document states, however, that structures created after June 1992 do not count and are, in fact, likely to be ordered for demolition The document states that the NMA is to make a list of all structures created on or after June 16th 1992 in all prohibited and regulated areas, reporting back to ASI.

    The foundation and partial pillars constructed for the flyover fit directly into this category, as a No Objection Certificate (NOC) was never obtained from the ASI granting permission for construction was never issued. Anyone with the wherewithal or connections should lobby heavily with the NMA to get the partial pillars removed from the Yamuna in front of Keshi Ghat. VT is, of course, looking into the best course of action for doing this.

  • Jagat

    One has to wonder why Mathura was not included, since it is one of the richest heritage areas in the whole of Uttar Pradesh. It could only mean that there are too many problems…

  • Katie Jo Walter

    Agra has its own problems, so it cannot simply be that! Varanasi is a huge heritage and problem area as well and it is not included – I think they are starting with only one major problem area – the one that brings in the most tourism money of all! I would guess that Varanasi would be in the next group to be brought under NMA and then the Braj area – rather sad when one thinks of how long it will likely take NMA to carry out their mandate in the other areas. I guess it all depends on how many people are working on it!

  • http://sankalpindia, SHOBHITA DWIVEDI

    Good effort keep it up!