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Monday, 14 May 2012

New bridge to take burden off Salimgarh Fort

Richi Verma, TNN | May 14, 2012, 02.17AM IST

NEW DELHI: The decade-old deadlock between Archaeological Survey of India and Northern Railway over construction of a new bridge near 16th-century world heritage site Salimgarh Fort is finally on the way to being resolved.

An alternative realignment of the bridge, which will serve the dual purpose of protecting the national monument while allowing the railways to maintain its link with the eastern states, has been approved at several levels. The proposal is in the process of getting an NOC from National Monuments Authority. Through this alignment, the new line will join the existing railway line before the fort.

The railway line connecting Shahdara to the Old Delhi railway station is more than 150 years old. The railways argued that it had to be replaced with a new bridge to maintain connectivity with the eastern states through rail. With the old railway line throwing up problems, the railways proposed to build a new bridge for which construction started in 2003. However, the work was stalled in 2007 when the ASI intervened. It objected to the construction of the bridge as it involved demolition of a portion of the monument's wall, though crores had already been spent on the project.

It was imperative that a new bridge built as the old iron bridge, built in 1867AD, was no longer structurally sound. Moreover, over 150 passenger trains and numerous goods trains passed through this line. Intach was asked to come up with a solution. It proposed the railway track, which was earlier going through Salimgarh Fort, be shifted north and pass over the Yamuna through the realigned bridge. As the diversion is outside 100m radius of Salimgarh, the new construction will fall under the regulated zone. The plan was accepted by the railways and thereafter submitted. "The construction will be carried out 30m upstream and parallel to the existing road-cum-rail bridges over the Yamuna. According to the Survey of India's site plan, it falls 100m away from the outer wall of Salimgarh Fort,'' said an official.

"Later on, the existing railway tracks, which pass through the protected area of Salimgarh Fort, will mostly be shifted to the recently constructed Ring Road bypass for connectivity with the new Yamuna bridge and construction of walls, piers, etc in the regulated area,'' said an official.

The proposed site for construction was visited by the competent authority for Delhi, Vijay Singh, NMA officials and officials from Northern Railway earlier this week. While NMA officials have consented to the plan unofficially, they said a formal NOC would be granted shortly. Singh added that a number of recommendations had been made in his report. The Intach report talks about improving the environment around the monument, which has also been incorporated as a prerequisite for the NOC. "The part of the old bridge made by the British is still conspicuous by its architectural style but the new road passing along Salimgarh Fort for the Commonwealth gaidge looks shabby. There are some old buildings like a pump house, etc which are abandoned and dysfunctional along the wall of Salimgarh Fort on the eastern side and illegal rickshaw stands and parking sites are openly creating a chaotic environment,'' reads the report.

Singh said improving the ambience around Salimgarh was critical. NOC will be granted to the railways, an essential public utility, as an exceptional case pending the framing of heritage bylaws for protected monuments falling on the proposed alignment. "The railways has been asked to incorporate elements of art & architecture of the Old British Bridge and Salimgarh Fort in the facade of the road under the rail bridge already constructed. The new bridge has to be constructed in a way that it improves the ambience around the bridge and Salimgarh Fort by removing encroachments, dilapidated and abandoned structures and checking undesirable activities,'' said Singh.

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