Mumbai: BMC Criticised For Damaging Heritage Steps At Banganga Lake During Revitalisation Project

Mumbai: BMC Criticised For Damaging Heritage Steps At Banganga Lake During Revitalisation Project

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has strongly criticized the civic body, emphasizing that Banganga is a protected national monument and that the use of heavy machinery has irreparably harmed the steps.

RUCHA KANOLKARUpdated: Wednesday, June 26, 2024, 01:59 AM IST
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BMC Criticised For Damaging Heritage Steps At Banganga Lake During Revitalisation Project |

Mumbai: The BMC suffered a humiliating setback on Monday when a contractor hired to clean the Banganga tank, a 1,100-year-old historic site, used a JCB machine to level the surrounding heritage steps, causing irreparable damage. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has strongly criticized the civic body, emphasizing that Banganga is a protected national monument and that the use of heavy machinery has irreparably harmed the steps.

The GSB Temple trust, which is responsible for overseeing the restoration work at Banganga, is also demanding that an FIR be filed against the BMC for its negligence and reckless disregard for India's cultural heritage. Civic body has claimed to have restored the stairs at Banganga tank within a day. However, experts are skeptical about the quality and durability of the work, particularly given the heritage status of the site.

A First Information Report (FIR) has been lodged with the Malabar Hill Police Station against the contractor for damaging the steps of Banganga Lake by lowering an excavator from the north entrance during the revitalization project.

Sanjay Shirke, a resident of Banganga said, "In the name of beautification, they have utterly desecrated a gem of Mumbai's heritage, Banganga," said Sanjay Shirke, a local resident. "While they have simply painted the iconic deep stambh, what about the areas that truly require attention from the BMC? The overflow system that drains water from the tank is encumbered by trash, its key is broken, why not fix it? The sacred Gaimukh, near Ramkund, is overrun with garbage. People come here to worship and this holy site is befouled. Just last week, metal sheets were carelessly discarded into the tank, posing a hazard to those nearby."

"In addition, we were informed about the SRA project planned for this area. We're concerned about the fate of the numerous temples here. Despite being in Mumbai's prime location, we lack basic amenities like toilets and water. Twelve toilets built five years ago remain uninaugurated. Sewage from these toilets flows directly into the sea, akin to the previous practice of littering. The long-delayed hospital construction adds to our woes. There are also many illegal houses; will they be addressed in the SRA project?", added Shirke.

Another resident of Banganga said, "As tourists flock to this site every day, a stark reality emerges: there's no toilet facility for anyone. It's appalling that no one seems accountable for the damage to this heritage structure. Who will compensate for the losses incurred? Moreover, it's astonishing that neither BMC officials nor those from the Heritage department have bothered to inspect the site, leaving everything in the hands of the contractor. If beautification is truly a priority, why not start with something as fundamental as providing basic amenities? The newly installed lamps are perpetually off. Sadly, we're at a loss as to whom to complain to, as our repeated attempts to seek help have fallen on deaf ears."

A conservation architect from Mumbai emphasized, "The stone stairs at Banganga tank, a prominent and integral part of the structure, suffered damage that required utmost care in its repair. It is crucial that the damaged portion is restored properly, and particular attention must be paid to ensuring that the springhead in the north-east corner of the tank remains undamaged. While stone dressing can facilitate the repair process, it is essential to avoid hasty work, as any thoughtless intervention could have disastrous consequences. In fact, Banganga has undergone numerous restorations throughout its history, but never has it suffered such extensive damage. As an important cultural site, Banganga demands careful preservation for future generations."

Speaking in this regard, Minister Mangal Prabhat Lodha stated, "After inspecting the area, I can assure you that strict action is being taken. The concerned contractor has been blacklisted, and Commissioner Datta Phansalkar has been instructed to take action in this regard. Orders have been issued, and a case has been registered."

"Under the Banganga Lake Revitalization Project, various works have been undertaken, including the upgradation of stone steps, revival of lamp posts, installation of attractive electric lighting, removal of encroachments on stone steps, and revival of the historical Ramkund. Additionally, a comprehensive development plan for temples in the area has been prepared, along with improvements to the roads leading to Banganga Lake", said BMC Official.

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