NEW DELHI: The Hauz Khas heritage, in the midst of an urbanized village with high-end boutiques, restaurants and an upscale residential colony, is slowly turning into a hub of illegal construction and occupation.
The monuments, which have a medieval history tracing back to the 13th century of Delhi Sultanate reign, have fallen prey to encroachers over the past few years. Despite complaints by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), along with several notices, the violations only seem to grow.
Just a few feet from the monument’s main entrance, construction is in full swing on the ground floor of a building that houses several boutiques and eateries. Another few feet away, a floor has been added to a building with a polished look.
In the residential colonies, which are 10 feet away from the monument’s boundary wall, the process of getting permission from the competent authority has been allegedly bypassed in favour of unauthorized construction.
Numerous notices, accompanied by action in some instances, have not shown results; officials admit that keeping tabs on all the illegal constructions around the monument is very difficult.
“We have made several complaints about unauthorized construction in the past few years but we are not empowered to take action and are dependent on the local authorities,” said a senior ASI official.
A number of restaurants in Hauz Khas Village recently came under the National Green Tribunal scanner for discharging untreated sewage into sewers. The group, which filed the PIL in the tribunal, now plans to seek intervention for safeguarding the sanctity of the heritage sites.
“Massive illegal constructions and ongoing encroachment of the forest belt and public spaces has been seen within 100m of the periphery of Hauz-E-Elahi. The forest belt not only has residences but has seen unbridled commercial activities. Most of the buildings housing famed restaurants have come up in the past three years and within 100m of the monument.
“All of this has been in connivance with ASI officials and other government bodies that have wilfully neglected their duties. It is important to preserve this 700-year-old monument and the eco-sensitive zone of southern ridge, failing which India will lose yet another important chapter of its glorious history to corruption, government and public apathy,” said Pankaj Sharma, environment and heritage activist.
Sharma claimed that attention was being paid mainly to the frontier of the monuments, but not to the settlements at the rear occupying forest land.
The locals said these shanties, which have been around since 2010, have been slowing growing. “We tried to free up the land two years ago but the villagers have now turned hostile. Our jurisdiction is till the monument’s boundary and the land occupied by villagers is with DDA,” said the official.