Vibrations and time take their toll

Vibrations and time take their toll

Renovation work on at Charminar in Hyderabad

Vibrations and time take their toll

The Archaelogical Survey of India restoring a minar at Charminar in Hyderabad.

Heavy vehicular movement and pollution seem to be taking a toll on some important structures in the country. Now, Charminar in the walled city of Hyderabad has joined the list. The famed structure is in the crowded old city. It has withstood the heavy traffic and high levels of pollution for a long time. Under the impact of incessant rain and
vibrations, stucco work on the 410-year-old monument has started peeling off. The authorities concerned, mainly the Archaelogical Survey of India, ignored the warning of a research institute.

The Uppal-based National Geophysical Research Institute (NGRI), which studied the impact of vehicular vibrations on Charminar in 2002 for the ASI, said that the levels of noise pollution and vibrations caused due to the traffic movement in the area were very alarming. “As against the permissible limits of 2.9 millimetre per second, the underground vibrations due to heavy traffic movement in the vicinity of the area often reach a peak particle velocity of over 7.5 millimetre per second,” the report had noted. “This is
extremely hazardous for the existence of the age-old monument as it even violates the British criterion for architectural damage caused by vibration of vehicular traffic, which has been pegged at a maximum level of 5 millimetre per second," experts of the NGRI cautioned.

The report further revealed that the average movement of traffic in the area in 2002 was about 1,000 vehicles per hour during the peak time compared to 500 vehicles per hour in 1997. With an average traffic index of 14, which is considered to be very high, the situation is really alarming. The ground vibration geophysical studies at each minar by powerful seismometers and sensors indicated that during the “quiet period”, the amplitude of vibration is very low as compared during the peak hours. “The impact of the vibration and the noise pollution is such that one can actually feel Charminar literally shaking during peak hours,” the NGRI said. The peak sound level recorded was about 105 decibels, which apart from being detrimental to the human ear was also exacting a heavy toll on the ancient monument.

“Due to the bombardment of signals transmitted by vehicular traffic, the entire structure has weakened considerably and based on mathematical calculations, it can be found out when Charminar actually starts showing creaks and crags,” NGRI director
Dr V P Dimri said. He noted that the noise levels prevailing in the area coupled with the incredible traffic movement had a “cascading effect” on Charminar.

Since then environmentalists have been urging the authorities to segregate Charminar from traffic by at least a distance of 500 metres, like the restrictions near the Taj Mahal, so that traffic regulated initially and then totally stopped. However, shop owners around the structure have opposed such a move.

The damage and repair

Repairs were necessitated after an ornamental piece of the minaret fell following torrential rains in August 2010. The ASI has begun repair work on the rain-hit southeast minaret of Charminar and the work is in progress. The very fine stucco work is being done by artisans from Chennai and Thanjavur. However, the ASI, which maintains the most important icon of Nizam’s Hyderabad, took time in taking up the work considering the location of the minaret.

The ASI faced trouble as the minaret is located just on the top of Bhagyalakshmi temple. Considering the sensitive nature of the old city with regard to religious issues, the ASI first wanted to cover the temple with some acrylic sheets and take up the scaffolding work with utmost care. The workers took almost a month to erect the scaffolding around the minaret facing the busy Nizamia Unani hospital. “It was really hard carrying the planks and sticks to the first floor without causing any damage to the inner walls of the monument. From there they have to be shifted to the mosque located in the second floor and scaffolding goes up to an astonishing 30 metres above the mosque,” said A Rasheed Khan, Conservation Assistant at Charminar.

The stucco work, which is nothing but an ornamental plaster work, is being applied on the location from where the piece fell down last year. The ASI started the repair work without waiting further for the results of a study on the impact of vehicular vibrations on Charminar undertaken by Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University. “The granite block behind the fallen chunk is intact an there is no danger to it,” says T Sreelakshmi, deputy superintending archaeologist, ASI.

As a practice of restoration, a combination of natural adhesives like lime mortar mixed with jaggery, jute, gallnut water and white yoke of egg is used to repair the two feet portion of the minaret. During 2001 also, blocks of decorative work had fallen from the terrace of Charminar on the south western corner. They were repaired using lime mortar.

Time has taken its toll on Charminar in many ways.  During the Mughal period, the southwestern minaret broke into pieces as lightning struck. It was restored by Subedar Dil Khan Bahadur at a cost of Rs 60,000 in those days. Again, during the reign of Asaf Jah III, the entire plastering was redone at a cost of Rs one lakh.

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