A “reasonable” entry fee and fines for littering, spitting, smoking and eating are a few of the little things that can save the Victoria Memorial.
The expert committee, constituted by Calcutta High Court in November, submitted its report on how to “improve the environment” of the Memorial Hall before a bench comprising Justices A.K. Ganguly and S. Pal on Monday.
Morning-walkers can, for now, breathe easy, as the 14-member committee could not reach “a unanimous decision” on whether to keep the garden gates closed till later in the day (they now open around 5 am).
Some members feel the compound should be opened after one cleaning session, as this “minimises the chances of defacement”, while others rejected this, as it might “restrict morning visitors”.
The committee, after examining the museum hall and the grounds, made several recommendations to save the historic monument from environmental pollution.
Calcutta High Court is now expected to deliver its directive to the Memorial authorities and the state government on implementation of the suggestions.
The committee, including representatives of the Heritage Commission, NEERI, Archaeological Survey of India and the central and state pollution control boards, was formed after environmental activist Subhas Dutta filed a petition seeking high court intervention to “save Victoria”.
The panel suggested that the number of Memorial employees was inadequate and recommended that the administrative offices be shifted out of the premises.
Measures to check destruction of the outer surface of the heritage structure by air pollution and acid rain should also be taken, the committee added.
Regular and exhaustive cleaning drives and a steady supply of drinking water figured among the things to do.
The committee also found visitors using plastic carry-bags, despite a pollution control board ban on the premises. Hawkers around the compound were also using them. The drainage and sewerage lines were found choked with plastic.
The report observed that both visitors and staff members were using the waterbodies on campus to bathe and wash. Regular monitoring by experts was needed to preserve the historic monument, it said. It also recommended better maintenance of the museum exhibits.
“We have submitted our report and will now proceed as per the court directives,” said Shyamal Sarkar, member-secretary, West Bengal Pollution Control Board, which will keep “regular watch”, continuing its “24-hour monitoring” of the environment on campus.