- No Heritage Impact Assessment studies have been conducted before the commencement of the project.
- No Ground Penetrating Radar Survey (GPRS) has been conducted to ascertain the archaeological & historical importance lying buried in the subsoil of Centrally Protected Monuments.
- The drawings and structural designs included in the DPR are different from the one presented to the National Monument Authority.
- Court has not given any stay order over the illegal construction
Cuttack/Puri – The controversy over constructions under the Jagannath Temple heritage corridor project in Puri, Odisha has intensified with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) stating in the Orissa High Court that the works have been carried out without their required permission. The ASI through an affidavit submitted before the High Court bench clearly mentioned that it has not given nod for any type of excavation or construction work in the 100-metre prohibited area around the Jagannath Temple as per the guidelines of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (AMASR) Act, 1958.
But however, the apex agency of the country for the protection of ancient heritages has neither demanded any stay order by the court over the construction activities near Jagannath Temple nor requested for any strict instructions to the state govt. Secondly, whether the deep holes created by using heavy machines around Shree Jagannath Temple have created any structural threats to the main temple or not, ASI’s affidavit is silent about this.
In a damning observation, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) informed the Orissa High Court that there was every possibility of the ongoing excavation near 12th century Jagannath Temple in Puri causing the destruction of archaeological remains at the heritage site. Earlier the Orissa HC had directed the ASI to submit a report while hearing public interest litigation (PIL) on construction activities going on within the prohibited area of the temple as part of the Shree Mandir Heritage Corridor Project.
Dillip Kumar Ramhari, Regional Director (East), ASI, Kolkata, in the joint inspection report observed:“During the joint inspection followed by onsite discussions with officials of Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA), District Magistrate, Puri and Odisha Bridge Construction Corporation (OBCC), it is found that the ongoing construction work of the Shree Mandira Parikrama Project has no valid permission or no objection certificate issued by the competent authority.”
“There is every possibility that OBCC, the designated agency for implementing the project, during the excavation or soil removal might have destroyed the archaeological remains of the heritage site. At several locations as seen from the cuttings, it is evident that removal of about 15 to 20 feet stratified deposit has taken place, which has caused irreparable damage to the heritage site. During the discussion, OBCC officials were clueless about the method of soil removal and cultural findings from the digging,” ,” the ASI said in the report submitted to the High Court.
Moreover, the apex conservation agency said: “It was informed during the discussion that no heritage impact assessment studies have been conducted before commencement of the project. No Ground Penetrating Radar Survey (GPRS) have been conducted to ascertain the archaeological and historical importance lying buried in the subsoil of 75m radius (Construction Zone) of Centrally Protected Monuments.”
“The construction work of the SMPP is in progress, which falls, in parts within both the prohibited and regulated areas of the centrally protected monument Shree Jagannath Temple, Puri,” the ASI pointed out.
While raising serious apprehensions about damage to the archaeological remains of the ancient structure, the ASI has also stated that the structural designs in the detailed project report (DPR) are different from the one presented to the National Monument Authority (NMA).
Advocate General Ashok Kumar Parija, who stands for Odisha Government, pointed out that NOC was granted by the NMA on September 4, 2021. He further submitted that he would like to file a specific reply to the joint inspection report since it proceeds on the basis that no such permission has been obtained from the NMA.
Taking note of it, the division bench of Chief Justice S Muralidhar and Justice RK Pattanaik allowed the State government to file the reply on or before June 20 and fixed June 22 as the next date of hearing on the matter.
Taking a serious view on the affidavit submitted by ASI, the Court cautioned the state government and asked to ensure that no damage is caused during further construction.
It may be noted here that devout followers of the Jagannath cult and opposition parties had earlier assailed the government for undertaking a massive development project around Jagannath Temple, Puri without the permission of the National Monument Authority (NMA) and Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).