17/1/2018 367 Culture of India | Architecture | View Recent Current Affairs
- The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Amendment) Bill, 2017 was passed by Lok Sabha. This bill amends the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958.
The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Amendment) Bill, 2017:
- Construction in ‘prohibited areas’: The Act defines a ‘prohibited area’ as an area of 100 meters around a protected monument or area. The central government can extend the prohibited area beyond 100 meters. The Act does not permit construction in such prohibited areas, except under certain conditions. The Act also prohibits construction in ‘prohibited areas’ even if it is for public purposes.
- The Bill amends this provision to permit construction of public works in ‘prohibited areas’ for public purposes.
- Definition of ‘public works’: The Bill introduces a definition for ‘public works’, which includes the construction of any infrastructure that is financed and carried out by the central government for public purposes. This infrastructure must be necessary for public safety and security and must be based on a specific instance of danger to public safety. Also, there should be no reasonable alternative to carrying out construction in the prohibited area.
- Procedure for seeking permission for public works: As per the Bill, the relevant central government department, that seeks to carry out construction for public purposes in a prohibited area, should make an application to the competent authority.
- If there is any question related to whether a construction project qualifies as ‘public works’, it will be referred to the National Monuments Authority. This Authority, will make its recommendations, with written reasons, to the central government. The decision of the central government will be final.
- If the decision of the central government differs from that of the Authority, it should record its reasons in writing.
- This decision should be communicated by the competent authority, to the applicant, within 10 days of receiving it.
- Impact assessment of proposed public works: The Bill empowers the National Monuments Authority to consider an impact assessment of the proposed public works in a prohibited area, including its (i) archaeological impact; (ii) visual impact; and (iii) heritage impact.
- The Authority will make a recommendation, for construction of public works to the central government, only if it is satisfied that there is no reasonable possibility of moving the construction outside the prohibited area.
- Historians and archaeologists have expressed concern over amendments proposed to the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act (1958). If the related Bill is passed in the Upper House, it could have disastrous consequences for historical monuments, they fear.
- The Act, which originally instituted conservation measures and banned construction activities near protected monuments, is now sought to be amended so that public works could be allowed within the 100 m prohibited zone.
- A historical monument has to be conserved by leaving enough space around it; otherwise the monument itself may decay once you allow buildings to come up next to it. If you want people to appreciate the monument you should allow visitors to associate it with its neighbourhood by leaving space around the structure.
- The pressures of urban development have meant that more and more historical monuments are coming under threat due to development activities around them.
- Rapid urbanisation also threatened many sites of historical importance, for example megalithic sites (Iron Age burials) en route Chengalpattu from Chennai.
- Even a Neolithic site near the Murugan temple in a hillock in Kundrathur is now missing due to urban settlements springing up there.
- In 2013, after a CAG report raised an alarm that 92 historical monuments had gone “missing” due to development activities around them, the ASI started a ground survey to verify them, and found that 21 had indeed become untraceable.