Development Cooperation Handbook/The video resources linked to this handbook/The Documentary Story/Court fight continues for the Varanasi Heritage
The Public Interest Litigation filed in the Allahabad High Court in India demanding greater government support and accountability for heritage protection Year 2000.
The U.P. State Government Order of 2000 prohibits constructions within 200 metres from the River Ganga and the National Monument Act of 1959 prohibits constructions within 300 metre radius of an ASI protected monument. The Ganga riverfront ghats in Varanasi are a unique ensemble of architectural and cultural heritage that is not only symbolizes Indian culture but is also a unique treasure of humanity.
Despite this order, new constructions have been rampantly coming up along the Ganga riverfront ghats of Varanasi since the year 2000, completely destroying the skyline of the ghats and breaking the harmony of the 18th and 19th century palaces and buildings that flank the Ganga riverfront. And the VDA has been turning a blind eye right since the year of the Government order, the year 2000, because it is hand in glove with the owners of the illegal buildings.
Year 2005 The Kautilya Society has been advocating for the past five years with the VDA and other local authorities about the importance of protecting the heritage of the Ganga riverfront ghats and providing assistance in identifying the illegal constructions that were coming up on the ghats in blatant violation of government orders and laws. The efforts are totally in vain. The VDA has continued to allow the destruction of the unique ghats and the old area of one of the most ancient continuously living cities in the world, Varanasi.
When all efforts of the Kautilya Society to dialogue with local and U.P. State authorities failed, the Kautilya Society filed a PIL in 2005 (PIL 31229 of 2005) against the VDA for violating civil law and permitting by allowing illegal constructions to come up in the prohibited protected heritage zone 200 metres from the Ganga riverfront ghats in Varanasi and within 300 metres radius of ASI protected monuments. Through our PIL, we hoped to protect the ghats of Varanasi which are a unique heritage and treasure of humanity. And we still hope to inscribe it, as a unique cultural landscape, on the World Heritage List of UNESCO. Year 2012 – 2013. And after years of appealing in the High Court of Allahabad, the special judge bench constituted especially for cases concerning the protection of the River Ganga, its river banks and its river basin, is finally giving justice to the Kautilya Society.
Year 2013. In its recent judgment in March 2013, the Allahabad High Court said: that in the city of Varanasi, there are “unabated unauthorised constructions which were neither checked nor demolished by the Varanasi Development Authority and other authorities who are entrusted with regulating the buildings and Ghats.” The Hon’ble High Court further said that that several photographs and details filed by the Kautilya Society reinforced their view ”that Varanasi Development Authority, its Vice Chairman and other authorities are not discharging their duties and not carrying out the object and purpose for which the U.P. Urban Planning and Development Act, 1973 has been enacted and the duties which are entrusted on them. In spite of unauthorised constructions being pointed out, nothing is being done. The sufferers obviously is the public in general who has to use the Ghats and also the heritage buildings and other protected buildings due to laxity of the authorities”