INTACH Raises Violation Of AMSAR Act In Ekamra Kshetra Project In Bhubaneswar

Bhubaneswar: Even as the Orissa High Court has restrained the state government from demolition of structures around Linagaraj Temple in the city under the Ekamra Kshetra project, the INTACH has submitted a report to the chief minister on destruction of archaeological artifacts and heritage items around the Suka Sari temple.

The report, prepared on the basis of preliminary site survey done by the INTACH team along with discussion with locals, stated that no standard laid down guidelines were followed by the project implementation authorities and excavating teams as a result of which substantial damage has been done to Suka Sari temple and adjoining ancient shrines. The use of heavy equipment like bulldozers, excavators, JCB’s, Hyva  trucks etc in a sensitive zone, filled with ancient temples, was against all norms.

“We saw many carved stone pieces/blocks having fine stone works scattered all around the temple premises. Some of those were identified with decorative features depicting scroll works, lattice pattern works, Nayikas, Gajavidalas, Salabhanjikas, Chaitya medallions and others. Even a Yonipith, which is a revered icon in Hindu Religion, has been damaged and kept in one corner,” the report said.

Stating that the demolition was part of the larger Ekamra Development Plan of the state government, the report said it was presumed that the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) had given clearance to the execution of the project. In fact, questions were being raised as to whether the ASI had acted according to the provisions of AMSAR Act as amended in 2010.

The report further said the Suka Sari temple precinct is one of the important locations in Ekamra Kshetra. It is mentioned in various ancient treatises like Ekamra Purana, Ekamra Chandrika etc.

The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) has made the few recommendations for the Ekamra Khestra project:

  1. Scientific study of the whole area along with Ground Penetration Radar Survey
  2. Documentation and mapping of heritage resources of the Lingaraj Temple precinct to understand the historic layers
  3. Formation of an expert committee to review and recommend the future developments
  4. A heritage sensitive development plan
  5. HIA (Heritage Impact Assessment) of the proposed development plan
  6. Stopping any further excavation anywhere in the proposed beautification zone until an expert heritage committee is formed with qualified persons which should include heritage experts, historians, structural engineers, conservation architects and local stakeholders. No heavy equipment and instruments should be used
  7. Paving the cleared portions with cement tiles should be immediately stopped as this will retard the recharging of the ground water during rains. The groundwater level of the area had been severely affected by the receding weather levels.
  8. Immediate ban on felling of any trees. Many old trees have been felled and many left high and dry, which will not survive.
  9. Proper inventory of all excavated materials, carved or otherwise, should be properly made.
  10. Adequate security at the places where excavation/development work is being done.
  11. Periodic site surveys of the work done in the presence of the Heritage Committee.
  12. Ban on political rallies/programmes at the cleared zones.
  13. Heritage Mutts, which are slated for demolition should be instead restored with proper conservation.
  14. 15 holy tanks including the Papanasini Tank, Debapadahara Tank, Ganga Yamuna Tank and Gosagareswara Tank should be de-silted and cleaned.
  15. The excavations have left many trees prone to crashing down. A few are now perched on small bases and if they come down; they will damage the nearby temples. These trees should be secured with guy wires.

The INTACH team was led by its state convener Amiya Bhusan Tripathy and the members included historians, heritage experts, a conservation architect and a structural engineer.

It may be noted that a division bench of the High Court on November 11 last year had restrained the state government from carrying out any further demolition under Ekamra Kshetra Amenities & Monuments Revival Action Plan without leave of the court.

Also Read: Orissa HC Restrains Govt From Demolition Around Lingaraj Temple


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