In a letter to ASI, coordinator Rani Sarma expresses concern over ‘heavy spoilation’ at Buddhist sites

The objections raised by Indian National Trust for Arts and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) notwithstanding, beautification work taken up by AP Tourism Development Corporation (APTDC) at the Buddhist sites of Thotlakonda and Bavikonda continues to be in progress. After repeated appeals to the Union government, INTACH coordinator Rani Sarma has in a recent letter to Director General of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) underlined the “heavy spoliation” caused by the ongoing work at these Buddhist archaeological sites and appealed to ASI to take over the upkeep and the administration of the two sites.

INTACH had objected that parts of the notified land belonging to the ancient Buddhist sites were being given away to agencies like the Department of Tourism in Thotlakonda, a Singapore-based housing colony in Bavikonda. “Tourism has taken priority over the conservation of the ancient Buddhist site, thereby severely compromising the site’s wellbeing. The conservation of the ancient brick structures was done in a haphazard and unprofessional manner. At many places, other than the bottom layers, the layers of ancient bricks have been replaced by modern bricks and the original character of the ancient site is eroded. If left to the state’s care, the site might end up further devalued due to unprofessional care,” Ms Rani Sarma said.

The Buddhist sites date back to third century BC, which was accidentally discovered by the Indian Navy in the mid-eighties.

The Hindu visited the Buddhist sites of Bavikonda and Thotlakonda on Friday. While at Bavikonda the beautification work is going on at a fast pace with thatched sit-out zones constructed within the Bavikonda Buddhist site area and some pathway being laid very close to Buddhist stupas, at Thotlakonda a part of the pathway leading to the Buddhist stupas was stopped after INTACH’s intervention, according to the APTDC guides and workers there.

Refuting the reasons cited by INTACH, Chandana Khan, Director of Archaeology and Museums, in a letter to INTACH stated that under the Visakhapatnam-Bheemli corridor project, permission had been accorded to APTDC for taking up developmental works at the Buddhist sites such as greenery and landscaping, signage, internal pathways and public amenities.

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