New Delhi: Seeking to preserve buildings and sites of historic, aesthetic, cultural or environmental value, the Uttarakhand government is planning to bring a special legislation to cover unprotected heritage in the state.
The Uttarakhand Heritage Act seeks to conserve landmarks such as the Almora Jail, where Jawaharlal Nehru was imprisoned, the colonial-era Raj Bhawan in Nainital, historic precincts and trees, groves and natural fields of environmental significance, an official said.
It aims at preserving and restoring heritage buildings and sites, which are not protected either by the central law of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) or any other existing government policies, she added.
The Directorate of Culture of the state has formulated a draft legislation and invited public suggestions on it.
"The draft (of the Heritage Act) is ready and it will soon be sent for the cabinets approval," Director, Department of Culture, Uttarakhand, Beena Bhatt, told PTI over the phone.
She said the act would encompass preservation as well as restoration of historical sites which were crucial to the states culture.
"The far-reaching legislation will also cover streetscapes and artifacts, besides protecting the sacred groves, mountains, traditional bridle paths, wetlands and wooded areas," Bhatt said.
The buildings or sites protected under the proposed act would get the "heritage" tag and development activities around them would be restricted.
Around 71 monuments in Uttarakhand are protected by the state government under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, while another 40-odd archaeological sites are covered by the central government, through the ASI, under the same act.
Among other modalities, the proposed law also envisaged a heritage authority and besides designating sites as "heritage", it would grade them according to their significance, Bhatt said.
The heritage authority would have the chief secretary of the state as its chairman and other key officials, along with experts such as an architect, a structural engineer, a historian and an environmentalist, as members.
The statute would also cover natural features of environmental significance and sites of scenic beauty and provide for conservation and protection of areas which are environmentally sensitive.
Uttarakhand has a number of ancient temples and British- era buildings. It is also one of the few states in the country which can boast of two Raj Bhawans -- one in Dehradun and one in Nainital. The grand building in Nainital is a Gothic splendour. The foundation stone of the building was laid on April 27, 1897, and it took two years to complete its construction.
Abutting the Raj Bhawan is 160 acres of forest land which has a number of faunal species, besides a large variety of flowers.
The Raj Bhawan (Nainital) also has a golf course spread over 45 acres. Built in 1936, it is one of the vintage golf courses in India.
Noted urban planner and architect A G K Menon welcomed the proposed legislation, saying it would help save buildings and the traditional architecture of the region.
"Uttarakhand is known for its wooden and stone structures. Also, the state capital of Dehradun has a lot of institutional buildings, from the IMA to FRI and the Survey of India, besides old churches and bazaars. So, this law will bode well for the state," he told PTI.
Menon suggested that besides the state act, the rural and urban bodies should also have their own legislations to protect the heritage within their jurisdiction.
"Dehradun, Nainital, Haridwar and other cities should also have their own protection laws to cover heritage buildings and sites," he said. PTI