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Realtor flouts rule, breaks fort wall

Bhubaneswar, June 25: Cash hungry developers have begun making inroads into the historic Sishupalgarh fort, a heritage site. One of the realtors has constructed a road damaging the earthen boundary wall of the monument in gross violation of rules.

The developer, a local resident, is promoting a plotting scheme over four acres in the fort area. However, to facilitate access to the plots, he has broken a portion of the earthen wall of the monument.

“The real-estate developer’s activities have violated the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (AMASR) (Amendment and Validation) Act, 2010, for not only creating a plotting scheme inside the protected site, but also by damaging the wall as there might be precious artefacts buried under the earthen wall,’’ said an archaeologist working with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

The ASI conservation assistant of the Bhubaneswar sub-circle has already filed a first information report (FIR) with the Lingaraj police station in the Old Town area.

“The real-estate developer had damaged a portion of the earthen wall of Sisupalgarh with earth moving machine and levelled it. He has also dumped river sand at the site,’’ the FIR states. Resident of Gangotri Nagar, a nearby colony, Surya Narayan Das, said: “Awareness about the heritage site is needed among local residents. The state government and the ASI must take steps to initiate them.”

“Sisupalgarh near Bhubaneswar and Jaugada in Ganjam district are two fortified urban settlements of Odisha that are unique as no such similar twin-settlements with urban planning in mind is seen anywhere in India. Both of them had boundary walls with four main gates each,’’ said ASI superintending archaeologist, Bhubaneswar circle, Bhuvan Vikrama.

Though the entire 562.68 acres of Sisupalgarh remains protected under the AMASR Act, due to lack of coordination between the state government and the ASI, illegal real-estate activities have contributed to the mushrooming growth of more than 1,000 houses. On the other hand, only 0.77 acres of land is under the possession of the ASI.

The famous 13 pillars made of laterite stones are also not spared by the real-estate developers. A fresh land demarcation was found within 200 feet of the southern part of the pillars. Nearly 20 houses and more than 50 plots have already come up near the site within last two years.

The ASI superintending archaeologist said: “The Bhubaneswar Development Authority (BDA) has stopped giving permission to building plans in the area after2000, but people are illegally constructing houses. If the building houses is illegal, then there should also be a ban on getting power and telephone connection to stop urbanisation inside the protected area.’’

BDA enforcement officer Debaprasad Dash said: “The ASI authorities should inform us regarding the illegal structures within their protected site so that we can go and take up demolition drive. They should also take this initiative so that pressure can be built up and people will not dare to construct illegal houses within protected sites.’’

“Archaeological sites in Odisha have mainly contributed towards the growth of tourism and,therefore, the state government should take up conservation of Sisupalgarh seriously in collaboration with ASI,’’ said travel planner Debashish Mohapatra.