HYDERABAD: The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is not just battling its own dearth of funds and manpower, it is also facing the weather and effects of illegal constructions around Charminar. During an inspection on Friday, the ASI appealed to the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation to keep a check on the ongoing illegal constructions around the monument, and urged the State government to bring more area around Charminar under its purview.
Any kind of construction, be it illegal or for maintenance purposes, poses a risk to the structural stability of the monument. “When constructions are taken up, the soil is dug up quite deep for the foundation. When JCBs and other machinery hit the rock underneath, the vibrations that emanate, affect the monument and its structural stability,” ASI Superintending Archaeologist Milan Kumar Chauley said.
This claim was verified in 2001 when the National Geophysical Research Institute (NGRI) found in its research that the said vibrations did affect the Charminar. Post that, the ASI dug up around the monument and inserted a layer of sand to keep a check on the effect of the vibrations. While the impact decreased, the problem persisted.
Now, the ASI is asking the GHMC to take action against all illegal constructions. “Whenever we come across an illegal construction, we immediately draft a notice and inform the GHMC. However, rarely is action taken against them,” claimed an ASI official.
During the inspection, attended by the Joint Director General of ASI, Janhwij Sharma, it was found that the mortar from the affected area of the minaret was ‘dead’ and that it had lost all its binding qualities. A sample of the lime plaster showed that it had developed a layer of brown soil. Chauley said that this is caused when dust around the area, seeps in through cracks. “The pollution in the form of soil, coupled with the vibrations and rain, were the reasons the piece fell off. Apart from that, the lime mortar also lost its binding quality,” he explained.
The affected southwest minaret had to be reconstructed in 1707 by the Asaf Jahis when a lightning strike reduced it to mound of earth. It was then re-plastered in 1924 by the Nizams. It maybe noted that chunks of this very lime plaster have fallen before from the same minaret—in 2001 and also 2010. ASI officials have been directed by Sharma to carry out a full-fledged physical documentation of the monument, following which it will be decided if that part needs re-plastering.
Meanwhile the ASI also urged the State government to bring more area around the monument under the institution’s purview. “The law prohibits any construction within a perimeter of 100 m. However, it is not practical to hand over the area to us. So we are asking for at least 30 ft around the perimeter. That is because, during the laying of pipelines (by the GHMC during CPP), they dug up some distance from the monument,” while adding that water was not good for the iron and stone making up the monument.