ASI seeks Surveryor General's help to protect heritage sites

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has approached the Surveyor General of India (SGI) for its expertise in assessing the threat to ancient archaeological sites in the nation and to protect them.

The ASI is reportedly in an advanced stage of talks with the SGI for mapping and surveying the 3,600 archaeological sites across the length and breadth of the country.

Speaking to Deccan Herald, the SGI, Swarna Subba Rao said the ASI had made a voluntary effort to get in touch with them for mapping the sites and surveying them. “We are in talks with the ASI who sought our help to survey these sites across the country. We expect it to be finalised in the coming months,” he said.

Meanwhile, ASI Director Dr Gautam Sengupta confirmed the developments saying the surveying of the sites were important in order to identify encroachments which have occurred over the years in these sites. “The main reason for seeking the help of the SGI in mapping these sites is to identify the extent of encroachments on the archaeological sites as per the amendment to Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Amendment and Validation) Act, 2010,” he said.

As per the amendment to the Act, no development project can be undertaken in the prohibited (100 metres) and regulated areas (200 metres) of the protected monuments and sites except as per permission that may be granted under the relevant provisions of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958 (including the rules made thereunder), and Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Amendment and Validation) Act, 2010.  Sources in the ASI said that once the MoU is signed with the SGI, it is likely to take at least three years for the survey to be completed.

According to the last known statistics, in 2010, it was declared in the Lok Sabha that as many as 249 important archaeological sites in the country had been encroached upon by various people, knowingly or unknowingly. These include the Burhiya ka Tal and the Jama Masjid, Itimadpur, Agra, Khatia Khana, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Ellora Caves in Aurangabad, Someshwara Temple in Kolar, Cheluvanarayana temple in Melkote and the Jaina tombs in Moodabidri.

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