Heritage stops rlys in its tracks

Long wait: The Srirangapatna railway junction with Sri Ranganathaswamy temple in the background. DH PhotosEven before the South Western Railways could shift the 200-year-old armoury built during the Tipu Sultan era at Srirangapatna, a bigger problem has come up. The existing railway track runs along the ancient Sri Ranganathaswamy temple, a monument protected by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

The ninth century Sri Ranganatha temple complex is barely 70 metres from the railway doubling project area. The railway track stands in violation of the recently amended Central Act. The Ancient Monument & Archeological Sites and Remains (Amendment & Validation) Act, 2010 came into effect on March 29 and it prohibits any kind of a development within a radius of 100 metres of a protected monument in the country.

The Railway project comes within the 100-metre range. It would be illegal for the Railways to go ahead with the track doubling.

The ASI had cautioned the Railways in 2007-08, much before the new Act came into effect, that the railway track expansion work was in close proximity to a heritage monument.

But the Railways did not respond. Now that the new law is in place, the Railways has to comply, said G S Narasimhan, superintending archaeologist, ASI Bangalore Circle.

Ramesh B Zalki, Principal Secretary, Kannada and Culture Department has been appointed as the competent authority under the ASI Act to process the applications seeking permission to take up works in the regulated/prohibited areas.

Pertaining to the railway doubling work, Zalki said: “If the project falls within the 100-metre radius of the temple complex, then it will have to be stopped, even if it is a public utility project”.

Imprisonment

The officer said the rules to implement the Act have not yet been framed. Hence, he can do little at this juncture to stop the railway project.

He said he can’t even write to the National Monument Authority to take a final decision on the railway work. But violation of the Act can attract a penalty of Rs one lakh besides imprisonment for two years.

The railways, however, do not foresee any major hurdle. Ravindranath Reddy, Chief Engineer (in-charge) of the railway project, said that measures were being taken to protect the temple complex.

He said the railways was well aware that the temple is right behind the railway track.

“The doubling work will not harm the temple monument. The Railways has received permission in principle from all departments concerned, and work is underway”, he said.

But in fact, the Railways have not begun the doubling work anywhere near Srirangapatna. The railway stretch in the temple town faced problems when heritage experts opposed the destruction of the armoury. After getting clearance from the ASI, the railways was entrusted with the responsibility of shifting the armoury, acquiring land for relocating the monument, and taking care of the costs involved for it. The task has not yet been completed.

Railway officials said they couldn’t alter the rail track now as it would be a dangerous proposition.

The track takes a curve of 5.2 degree with a speed potential of 80 km/hr at the Srirangapatna station. If the track is shifted, then the curve will be seven degree. The speed of the trains will reduce to 30 kms/hr in addition to placing the trains at risk.

The curve will have to be connected to the bridge being built across river Cauvery, 600 metres from the station, making it too risky for the trains to run on the bridge, officials said.

Progress so far


* SWR has completed 64 km of track doubling work - 55 km from Bangalore to Channapatna; 9 km from Mysore to Naganahalli.

* This year the work has been taken up on the 7-km stretch between Channapatna and Shettyhalli; on a 10-km stretch between Maddur and Hanakere.

* Electrification work is over on a 12-km stretch between Bangalore and Kengeri.

* Along with the construction of 13 major bridges, work on 62 minor ones is in progress.

* Trains are running on the double track from Bangalore to Ramanagara, after which they are on a single track.

* Doubling has helped to reduced travel time by 15 minutes. Once the entire work is over, the travel time will reduce by 30 minutes.

* 13 pairs of trains are operate between Mysore and Bangalore. 26 passenger/express services ply in both directions per day besides, three/four goods trains.

* SWR has set December 2013 as the deadline for completing the doubling work.


Engineers to decide on Armoury

The railways has sought the expertise of the Institution of Engineers, Bangalore to help shift the armoury. A team of consultants headed by Ashwathnarayana, former PWD secretary, is expected to submit its report on this within a month’s time.

The team was entrusted with this work in November 2009. “We can begin our work once the Railways hand over the land for relocating the armoury. Once the land is with us, a series of tests need to be conducted to ascertain the manner in which the monument can be shifted. The armoury, which is of brick and limestone, weighs 2,000 tonne”, he pointed out. The Railways has identified a private land which is less than half-an-acre for relocating the armoury.

The land is 110 metres from the existing site. But it is yet to be acquired.

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