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Encroachments near heritage sites to go

Staff Reporter

Illegal structures around two temples in Villupuram were removed recently "Urban development pressures should be taken into account by agencies and officials"

CHENNAI: The Archaeological Survey of India will remove illegal structures close to 50 heritage sites in the State, flouting buffer zone regulations.

"We are working with the district administration to remove cottages and other pucca structures around the Namakkal Fort," T. Satyamurthy, superintending archaeologist, ASI Chennai Circle, said.

The department recently removed several illegal structures around the Ennayiram Narashima temple and the Brahmadesam temple in Villupuram. While Namakkal Fort was built by the Madurai Nayakas, the Ennayiram temple was a Vedic university 800 years ago, he said.

ASI's Chennai Circle takes care of 247 monuments and 163 archaeological sites of national importance as well as two UNESCO-designated World Heritage monuments — the monuments at Mamallapuram and the Great Living Chola temples at Thanjavur, Gangai Konda Cholapuram and Darasuram.

According to ASI director (conservation) K.P. Poonacha, urban development pressures should be taken into account by agencies and officials involved in managing the sites and monuments, especially World Heritage Monuments.

In his inaugural address on Wednesday at the regional workshop on `World Heritage Sites - Strategies for Living Monuments,' Mr. Poonacha cited the case of Hampi monuments in Karnataka that were added to the List of World Heritage monuments in danger in 1999 after the construction of two bridges, threatening to overwhelm the site's environment. The site, he said, was in danger of losing its World Heritage status.

"We need to have a site management plan that would take into account structural as well as environmental protection to avoid such situations," he said. The plan should take into account the importance of demarcating heritage sites as well as containing the tourism pressure and encroachments.

The two-day workshop has 50 participants from Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh apart from a three-member archaeologist delegation from Cambodia.

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