The National Monuments Authority (NMA) has given the go-ahead for development of 54 row houses in the regulated zone of the 500-year-old Golconda Fort and Qutb Shahi Tombs Complex in the city.
Topping a flurry of letters, the NMA in its 223rd meeting on April 15-16 gave the no-objection certificate to the builder for developing 10-metre high houses in the zone with a caveat — colour scheme should match with that of the monuments.
The location is 101 metres beyond the wall near Patancheru Darwaza and in the line of sight of both monuments. The construction will block the visual continuity that has existed for centuries between the two locations.
A number of archival images dating from the late 19th century show the domes from the highpoint of Golconda fort and a view of the fort from the tombs. A visit to the site revealed that the construction would likely block the view.
Big blow to history
Also lost will be a slice of history. “The Patancheru Darwaza (gate) was an important passage in the old road from the Inner Fort to the site of Old Golconda. The gate was the link to Golconda’s origins. The site of ‘Old Golconda’ went far beyond this, and may have extended into this area of potential new construction between the fort and the tombs,” says Prof. Robert Simpkins of Porterville College, placing the location in historical context.
Prof. Simpkins has extensively studied and mapped the area and recently published a paper on ‘Inferring Road Networks and Socio-Political Change through Elite Monuments of the Golconda Kingdom’.
A six-year conservation effort by the State government in tandem with the Aga Khan Trust for Culture has transformed the Qutb Shahi monuments into a must-visit site, and officials cannot hide their anger over the new development.
“To secure ‘World Heritage Site’ status for Golconda-Qutb Shahi Tombs (2014 nomination), it is imperative that the pedestrian linkage is restored along the original route used by the Qutb Shahis. This space is also extremely significant visually to retain the heritage character of the two sites. It’s shocking to hear that private villas are planned on this significant archaeological zone,” said Ratish Nanda, CEO of Aga Khan Trust for Culture, when asked about the development.
Documents seen by this reporter show that the Department of Heritage, Telangana, raised multiple concerns citing Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (AMASR) Act against the issue of NOC.
“In the absence of such guidelines and by-laws, Heritage Impact Assessment would only be a mockery and it is also a fact that the interest of both monuments cannot be evaluated in proper light,” wrote the Competent Authority of NMA for Telangana, but to no avail. In its response, the NMA, in fact, blames Director-General ASI for not framing Heritage Bye-Laws as per Rule 21 of AMASR Act.
“It is surprising that the Delhi-based National Monuments Authority has been pursuing the approval for this proposed construction,” said an official of Department of Heritage.
The NMA has put in a condition for the builder — no use of heavy machinery except JCB.
Work is progressing at a rapid pace on the site. The ancient aqueduct that brought water from Durgam Cheruvu to the Golconda fort has been turned into a wall by the builder.
Other archaeologically important spots like the medieval weir that used to flood the moat might be under threat.
A 2003 satellite map shows five small water bodies between the fort wall and the out enclosure of tombs, but now the area is filled with rubble and flattened.
“Golconda’s heritage is thus both visible and invisible, but both can be lost quickly and irrevocably without proper study and consideration. The promotion of its heritage is necessary for the pride of Telangana and the education of the world, and best achieved through actions agreed upon by government agencies and citizens alike,” says Prof. Simpkins.