Protection & Conservation of Monuments in Delhi
In 1999, the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) published a list of 1208 buildings which identified the city’s architectural heritage. Of these only 174 were being protected by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). The remaining buildings were technically unprotected and subject to steady attrition on account of neglect, vandalism and insensitive development. INTACH campaigned for their protection and one of the outcomes was the promulgation of The Delhi Ancient and Historical Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act in 2004 (State Archaeology Act). In pursuant of this Act, the Department of Archaeology of the Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi and INTACH signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on 29th October 2008 for protection and subsequent conservation of 250 buildings from INTACH’s list. This book documents the works accomplished so far under this MoU.
The project was undertaken in two phases. First, 91 buildings were identified for notification under the State Archaeology Act. It may be of interest to note that the documentation required for this exercise goes far beyond the familiar level of ‘Listing’ of Heritage Buildings, because it included detailed Total Station Survey of the site including the collation of the official land records, identification of the 50 meter Prohibited Area and 100 meter Regulated Area around each monument in accordance to the State Archaeology Act, measured drawings of each monument, photographs of the monument and the site, and a brief condition assessment of the heritage building. This is perhaps the most comprehensive recording of heritage buildings anywhere in the country, and the ASI is now in the process of following this model to record all the monuments in its custody.
Second, conservation works on 14 monuments were undertaken as per terms of the MoU by INTACH before the Commonwealth Games 2010. What is of interest to note in the conservation work is that it sought to break new grounds in the commonly practiced philosophy of conservation in India. Importantly, INTACH restored and rebuilt portions of the buildings which were deteriorated or missing based on evidence available at site, a practice not commonly followed by traditional archaeologists in India because they seldom attempted any intervention beyond the consolidation of ruins. However, no conjectural restoration was undertaken and is in keeping with the practice world wide. To ensure quality and best practices, the State Department of Archaeology constituted a Monitoring Committee which included senior archaeologists from ASI. Thus, both in the survey and conservation of monuments, the State Department of Archaeology boldly encouraged INTACH to break new grounds which will stand as benchmarks for future conservation work in the country.
The conservation work also included its lighting and the landscaping of appurtenant areas to enhance visitor experience and increase public perception of the invaluable architectural heritage in their midst. Delhi has a tremendous wealth of architectural heritage, and this project demonstrates that both the Government and INTACH are dedicated to ensure that not only are these buildings conserved for future generations to enjoy but that also in the process the work should establish high and innovative benchmarks in such Public-Private Partnership projects.
A.G. Krishna Menon
Convenor, INTACH Delhi Chapter