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August 23, 2011

Taxila heritage at the mercy of stone-crushers

National

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APP
August 23, 2011

Islamabad
Unchecked and large-scale quarrying and blasting in the stone-crushing area in the vicinity of the Unesco World Heritage Site has been causing an irreparable damage to the historical monuments of Taxila Museum, but the government departments supposed to be preserving the site seem to be protecting the stone-crushers business instead of doing their job.
Major fractures have started appearing more visibly in monuments of Taxila Museum due to the quarrying and stone crushing activity in the vicinity, said Dr. Ashraf Khan, top official of the Taxila Institute of Asian Civilisations, affiliated with the Quaid-i-Azam University, while quoting his own reports prepared in the recent past.
I have prepared various studies in which I tried to highlight the issue of adverse effects of stone crushing on historical monuments in Taxila. It was quite encouraging that some of the stone crushing units were shifted to other places but still their sites fall in the vicinity of Taxila, he said.
An official said the issue of management of museums also got complicated after passage of the 18th Amendment as there was massive confusion over the question of ownership and management of the museums and archaeological sites across the country, prior to which the Federal Archaeology Department was managing all the affairs.
Deputy Commissioner (Islamabad) Amer Ali Ahmed told this scribe that they started a massive campaign against stone crushers in ICT area in which 17 stone crushing units were demolished in last October.
When it comes to the stone crushing units operating in Taxila we informed the relevant department of the Punjab government because these units fall in the buffer zone between ICT area and Punjab province, he said.
In an earlier report of the Department of Archaeology it was mentioned that continuous quarrying and blasting in close proximity of these ancient sites for the last many decades have caused substantial loss to the monuments

in Taxila Museum.
According to official data the Punjab government issued notices to 188 stone crushing units last year but ironically the activity continued to increase with each passing day. The case of stone crushing has now been sent to the Punjab Environmental Protection Tribunal that is continuously pursuing the issue.
It stated some 22 leases were granted to owners but now half of the leases have expired. Approximately 70 stone-crushing units are being operated on expired leases and have no legal status.
It showed that stone-crushing is being done in limestone blocks by many contractors and companies. The contractors put blame on the government departments for increasing stone crushing in the Margalla area because according to them departments including Pak-PWD, National Highway Authority (NHA) and Rawalpindi District Government have directed them to use gravels from this area for construction as its sandstone is quite suitable for this purpose.
Talking to this scribe Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency (Pak-EPA) Director General Asad Faiz said they issued notices to stone crushers in Taxila because it was not clear whether buffer zone where these units were operating fall in the vicinity of ICT or the Punjab province.
When the issue was discussed with the competent authorities it was decided that the Punjab government would pursue the issue and now an environmental tribunal is reviewing all aspects of this practice that has become a major threat to natural environment as well as historical monuments in Taxila, he said.

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