The Workshop discussed the problems faced by the custodians of Delhi’s archaeological heritage, and the possible ways of showcasing and accommodating this heritage in a city where there were roads and flyovers being added to the Landscapes at an accelerating rate. Possible immediate measures were discussed.
For Sri A K Sinha, Superintending Archaeologist, Delhi Circle, the ASI appeared to be fighting with its back to the wall against encroachments, particularly in urban villages, to the extent that many of their properties had even been destroyed, and where constant vigilance was necessary. He also referred to the need to extend protection to other buildings built before 1907 (keeping the 100-year limit specified in the Act).
Ms Minja Yang, Director of UNESCO in India, painted in the wider dimension. India as a signatory to the World Heritage Convention of 1972 had certain obligations which it needed to discharge –
- The government is expected to make a national inventory not only of ASI-protected monuments but of Landscapes and intangible heritage.
- A National Committee for World Heritage sites is needed, for these cannot all be under the direction of the ASI.
- Lacunae in our laws – city master plans are land-use plans, which make token references to conservation and ‘special areas’. These are not enough until they are backed by incorporating heritage areas into Zonal Plans, and detailed byelaws are framed to accommodate the ASI’s regulations about 100m and 200m..
Mr E F N Rebeiro intervened to point out that the Zonal Development Plans have to be completed by February 2008, and the ASI should provide clear maps showing its protected building/s, and the controlled and regulated areas (in the latter indicating permissible height limits)s on a scale of 1:2000. Mr Kuldeep Singh said this was a difficult exercise in areas with a wealth of archaeological heritage, as in Nizamuddin, where the circles of the regulated areas overlapped. Sri A G K Menon suggested a flexible approach as against the geometric rigidity of the two concentric circles. Mr Correa, referring to Rome, said that the restrictions should be seen as a holding exercise, where it was possible for the ASI to modify the boundary. To this Ms Yang added that in Rome, when there was any dispute, Conservation Plans prevailed over the city Master Plan, but in the case of India . Mr Madan regretted that in India heritage was seen not with pride but as a liability.
Ms Gurmeet Rai described the Red Fort CCMP as a joint exercise by her firm and the ASI. At the same time she pointed out the anomaly where a CCMP is according to UNESCO norms but not the ASI Act. She gave examples of how some MCD projects were against the interests of the Red Fort – the Purdah Bagh parking, e.g. which would block the beautiful vista of the Sunehri Masjid. The CCMP is a plan – now it was incumbent on the ASI to implement it.
Mr Ratish Nanda quoted statistics to compare Washingtom DC to Indian towns – the American capital had more heritage buildings than the total number of monuments protected by the ASI in India. It was not impossible for Delhi to recognize and treat with respect its 1200 listed buildings, which included the notional 174 of the central ASI. He also urged that the State Department of Archaeology be made more viable by giving it powers of protection.
Mr Correa suggested that key areas in the city have specific rules. When building near a heritage area/structure, elegant interventions were possible, with a soft transition from the old to the new.Since the ASI ‘protected’ only the actual structure/s, the local authority would have to regulate the surrounding area. Ms Yang suggested the appointment of architect-planners to advise the local government agencies on conservation, and the setting up of maisons de patrimoine (heritage houses) – small local area offices with documents, photographs and maps which the community could consult.
Mr Naveen Piplani, TVB School, made a presentation on the Turkman Gate area, indicating which parts of this heavily built-up neighbourhood would be affected by the ASI regulations, and suggesting that a more pleasing and organic Landscapes could be created by linking roads, lanes and open spaces, and accentuating view-lines. Mr Ashok Lal, also of TVB School, explained that Khirki, a heritage village, would stand to gain visually and its inhabitants economically and socially, by not taking the ASI regulations and the MCD byelaws too literally. Mr Kuldeep Singh emphasized that design exercises were needed, with the DDA/MCD, ASI/State Department of Archaeology and the DUAC participating, in all the areas around protected structures. Mr Sudhir Vohra explained that the ward-maps with the local authorities were not heritage-linked, and the exercise should be done on the Local Area Plans, where Local Area boundaries could be drawn with heritage areas in mind. Dr Priyaleen Singh drew attention to the plight of the many historic gardens in Delhi, the landscapes and alignments of which had been ignored and in most cases damaged beyond recall. Ms Yang pointed to the absence in India of a law to protect landscapes.
Professor Sunil Kumar, Delhi University, argued that Delhi’s history is best understood if the city is seen in terms of historic neighbourhoods. In response to Mr John Hurd’s comment about the link between heritage buildings and the neighbouring communities, Professor Kumar said that there was need to break the silence about 1947. Many of the inhabitants of urban villages were Partition refugees, who had no organic or historic link with the medieval monuments in their midst. This rupture in history should be explained to them, and new ways devised to give the present inhabitants a sense of attachment to the historic structure. Mr A G K Menon endorsed this, and said that the increasing interest in history and ecology should be reflected in making sure that there was a multidisciplinary approach to dealing with heritage areas. Officials of the ASI could be ‘embedded’ in the MCD so that their interests did not appear as conflicting. Mr Madan responded to the discussions by suggesting that archaeological heritage be seen as a common asset instead of a shared burden. Of the 1500 sq km of Delhi, only 5% was occupied by it. The ASI, known as a surveying agency, then as one which protected monuments, had become known to the average inhabitant because of the 1992 Notification. For its part, the ASI reserved only 2% of its annual budget for ‘heritage management’. The time had come for the Notification to be recognized by mapping and by inclusion in LAPs, and management plans prepared for the protected buildings and sites, to be written into the MPD.
Mr Shaheer, urged that the ASI be seen not as making mistakes but as achieving great things, and that communities be linked to the long histories of areas. Mr Jasbir Sawhney underlined the need to have a multidisciplinary approach to the question of squaring conservation with development. Mr Correa emphasized the need to finetune the 100m and 200m zones, and to work with the ASI.
The Commission, on Mr Shaheer’s suggestion, tentatively proposed the taking up of six projects – Lal Qila, Purana Qila, Roshanara Bagh, Northern Ridge, Mehrauli, Nizamuddin and Khirki Village. A second suggestion was that the ASI make copies of the list of protected sites and buildings available in all the Delhi State languages, and a list of historic gardens, water-bodies and waterways be prepared.