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Monday, November 30, 2009

Red Fort to be cleared of Army remnants

NEW DELHI: The ugly tin sheds, toilet blocks and hutments, which were built by the Indian Army during its stay in Red Fort from 1947 to 2003, are finally on their way out. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has decided to demolish the structures as part of its conservation plans for the citadel. It also plans to reopen the drains along Red Fort's walls, which had been closed by the British.

Over 100 such structures that have no archaeological or historical merit have been identified in the Comprehensive Conservation Management Plan (CCMP) prepared for Red Fort."These structures were built by the Indian Army when they stayed inside the Red Fort complex from independence to December 2003. They will be phased out in the next few weeks,'' said a senior ASI official. Two canteens within the fort grounds will also be removed.

According to conservationists, spaces like these have been an eyesore for tourists visiting the Red Fort complex, which boasts of buildings from three different eras, including the Mughal and British periods. "The Army built many structures small hutments, tin sheds, toilet blocks to house soldiers in the fort. For conservation purposes, these structures need to be removed and the space they are occupying opened up,'' said a senior official. Once the structures have been removed, the Diwan-i-am and Rang Mahal will be renovated and the fort's many museums will be shifted to the British-era barracks.

ASI is also planning to open the six-foot deep drains that run along the citadel's outer walls. According to sources, they were blocked by the British when they took over the fort after the 1857 uprising, a move that is now posing problems. "The water trapped in the drains is stagnating at various points, triggering capillary action in the fort walls. During the Mughal era, the drainage ensured that not a single drop of water would enter the Red Fort. However, the British wanted huge lawns so they had the drain blocked,'' said an official.

ASI officials said the blocked drainage has also damaged the two gateways to the fort Lahore Gate and Delhi Gate. "The blocked drainage causes water to seep inside the foundation of the fort wall and the two gates. This weakens the structure and the problem had to be addressed urgently,'' said officials.

Conservation work is expected to kickstart once the CCMP gets the final nod from the Supreme Court-appointed expert committee. Red Fort is the second most visited monument in the city after Qutub Minar. ASI has also constructed a parking lot at the fort, which is awaiting clearance from Central Public Works Department. 
 

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