The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Monumental drive to revive Memorial

The famous white walls are plagued by pollution and the distinctive domes are leaky. But the Calcutta skyline’s crowning glory is fighting back to beat the ravages of time and torment.

Responding to a court order, the Victoria Memorial Hall authorities on Friday admitted to the monumental odds facing the monument and outlined the salvage steps being taken. Renovation of the edifice, reorganisation of the galleries, restoration of paintings and changes in traffic patterns around the monument itself. All these figured in the affidavit submitted by Victoria Memorial Hall director C.R. Panda before the division bench of Calcutta High Court, comprising Justice A.K. Ganguly and Justice D.P. Sengupta.

Panda furnished the affidavit on the basis of a court order in a matter relating to ‘the status of the monument due to pollution’. The case, initiated before the green bench of the high court by environment activist Subhas Dutta, sought directives to the authorities to take special steps to save the historic hall. Chief Justice A.K. Mathur refused to hear the matter as he was a member of the Hall committee and referred it to Justices Ganguly and Sengupta.

In the affidavit, the Memorial authorities admitted to “water leaks” in the central hall of the building during heavy showers. “The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has been working on the repair of the domes and roofs,” stated Panda, adding that the outer surface was being “damaged due to the heavy pollution caused by the movement of traffic” around the Memorial.

Panda told the court he had requested the state transport department to consider necessary action for diverting heavy traffic on roads encircling the monument. He also said that the government should not allow industries to be set up within a zone of 10 km from Victoria Memorial.

But steps to save the monument are in full swing, assured the director. The National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, had been entrusted with the job of preparing a masterplan for modernisation of galleries. “We have sought the advice of experts to help in rotation of the statue of the angel and a compilation of visual reference of the artefacts is also underway,” said Panda, adding that an air-conditioning system in the museum was introduced to cut the pollution level.

A decision has already been taken to acquire additional space and shift the accounts and administrative sections of Victoria Memorial hall elsewhere. The division bench received the affidavit and fixed the hearing after 15 days.

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