Puri Heritage Corridor Construction May Have Damaged Jagannath Temple: ASI To Orissa HC

New Delhi: The Archaeological Survey of India on Monday informed the Odisha High Court that the ongoing construction work of Puri Heritage Corridor may have caused damage to 800 year-old Jagganath Temple adding that the state government project is being carried out without valid permission from the competent authority, reported news agency PTI. 

“There is every possibility that the construction agency OBCC (Odisha Bridge Construction Company) during the excavation and removal of the earth might have destroyed the archaeological remains of the heritage site,” stated the ASI in its affidavit.

It further added that “the ongoing construction work of the project being carried out by the Odisha government inside the “prohibited” area of ​​the ancient monument has no valid permission or no objection certificate (NOC) from the competent authorities.” 

The state had informed the Court that correspondences were exchanged between the Odisha government and National Monuments Authority which is responsible for grant of permission for construction related activity in the “regulated and prohibited area”. 

However, ASI in its 70-page affidavit to the High Court said that the drawings and structural designs included in the revised detailed project report (DPR) are different from the ones presented to the NMA.

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Hearing a PIL regarding the health of the temple, the Court asked ASI to undertake a joint inspection of the site with the state government and file a report on the same. As per court’s order, a joint inspection was undertaken last week and the affidavit filed by ASI following the inspection stated that the OBCC managing director said that till date no permission or approval from the NMA or any competent authorities was available for structural activities and the design of the project. 

“No heritage impact assessment studies have been conducted before commencement of the project. At several locations stratified deposits of about 15 to 20 ft have taken place, which has caused irreparable damage to the heritage site”, the ASI said in its affidavit, reported the news agency. 

“Cracks have appeared in the Nata Mandap of the 12th-century shrine due to these construction activities” and continued construction work will pose a threat to the structure of the temple, it said.

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The petitioner has appealed to the Court to give an order to stop the construction work and for violating the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958. As per the provisions of the Act, the area within 100 metres from a monument is a ‘prohibited’ zone while that within 200 metres falls under the ‘regulated’ category, the petition said.

A division bench headed by Chief Justice S Muralidhar has asked the state government to file its reply on affidavit submitted by ASI and listed the matter to be heard again on May 22. 

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