Experts opposed existing site as it is within 100 metres of notified monument

Following objections from archaeologists, the State government plans to change the location of the proposed Tamil Nadu Assembly Diamond Jubilee Memorial Arch on Rajaji Salai.

The Chief Minister had laid the foundation stone for the Arch on October 29, last year.

The 41-feet-high arch was to be built close to Fort St. George, which is more than 350 years old.

Many structures within the Fort, including the ramparts, moat and defence walls, are notified national monuments protected by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). The legislative assembly is also located within the Fort complex.

To preserve monuments better and prevent encroachments, the Centre amended the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act in 2010. The revised rules prohibit new construction within 100 metres of any notified monument.

However, overlooking this, the government chose a site that was less than 20 metres from the Fort monument. The Public Works Department (PWD) designed the commemorative structure that ‘would encompass traditional and modern architecture’ to be built at a cost of Rs. 1.33 crore.

When PWD submitted an application for the mandatory clearance, the National Monuments Authority (NMA) in Delhi turned it down.

According to the NMA, the PWD claimed in its letter that the competent authority — a State-level regulatory authority of the NMA — had recommended the project.

The NMA does not accept PWD’s application on the grounds that it was not properly made or duly signed by the competent authority. Even if the PWD had submitted revised plans, the NMA would have asked ASI, Chennai Circle, to verify facts and then refused permission if the commemorative structure fell within the prohibited zone, an official of NMA said.

When contacted, the office of the competent authority — which in the case of Tamil Nadu is the commissioner, State department of archaeology — said the issue of recommending the diamond jubilee arch does not arise anymore since the government now proposes to build it 300 meters beyond the monument zone.

Discussions are on and the government would soon decide on the final location, a PWD official said.

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