Judging by its recent actions concerning heritage sites, it seems the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) is engaging in doublespeak. On one hand it organises a seminar on ‘economics of heritage conservation’, while on the other it continues work on a grade separator at S G Barve chowk near Pataleshwar caves in Shivajinagar despite objection from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
This against the backdrop of a decision taken by the civic body at the recently concluded seminar organised by PMC and UNESCO-led Indian Heritage Cities Network (IHCN) and the French embassy to conserve and restore heritage structures in the city.
ASI slapped PMC with a stop-work notice twice — in October and December last year — for carrying out work within 100 metres of the centrally protected Pataleshwar caves, a heritage site dating back to 8th century AD. Following the civic body’s disregard, ASI is now contemplating strict legal action against PMC for ignoring the earlier notices and continuing work at the restricted area.
In the notice sent, ASI says, “It is informed to you that Pataleshwar caves has been declared a monument of national importance by Government of India under the provision of Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958 and rule 1959. As per section 20A of aforementioned Act of 2010, every area beginning at the limit of the protected part or protected monument, as the case may be, andextending to the distance of 100 metres in all directions shall be prohibited area in respect of such protection area or protected monument. Further, as per section 20B, ancient area declared as of national importance under section 3 and 4 and extending to a distance of 200 metres in all directions, shall be regulated.”
Madan Singh Chauhan, superintending archaeologist, Mumbai circle, said, “We have sent notices twice, but haven’t received any reply from the PMC. We duly consider that PMC is constructing a grade separator in public interest. But, in this case they should seek the permission of ASI and submit all the plans and paperwork of the project. We can approach the police to stop the work, but we want to resolve it mutually because it is a infrastructure project for the public.”
Many civic groups have also raised objections to the Barve chowk grade separator since its inception stage. According to Indian Road Congress guidelines, a grade separator could be considered at a junction as the last resort, if there is extended halting time and a long signal cycle due to heavy traffic from all arms of the junction.
Prashant Inamdar, convener of Pedestrians First, said, “At SG Barve Chowk there are only two cross flows — one from Sancheti Chowk to JM Road and the other from Shivaji Putala Chowk to Simla Office Chowk. The halting time for vehicles due to the traffic signal is just 60 seconds, and hence the grade separator is needless. Apart from that, it shows utter disregard and contempt for the Act when PMC itself is supposed to safeguard ancient sites. Despite serious objections raised, PMC has gone ahead with the construction of a grade separator.”