Lost maps hamper Tripura heritage building's renovation work

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Agartala, Nov 20 (UNI) Jolted by the predictions of an earthquake wrecking the Northeast within the next few years, the Tripura government has undertaken a renovation initiative for the historical Ujjayanta Palace.

However, the project is delayed owing to the non-availability of the original architectural designs of the old tombstone, official sources said here today.

The state government had already received the sanctions for renovation work from the Union Tourism Ministry a few months back and appointed the Bangalore based Indo-Swiss construction company BBR India for the task.

A devastating earthquake, which had struck Agartala in 1897, had flattened the palace, built in 1838, following which, the ruling monarch Radhakishore Manikya got the palace, spread over a sprawling half a square km area, rebuilt by the UK-based Martin and Burn's in 1901 after taking a loan from the British-owned Bengal Bank.

''There is no record of any other major renovation of the palace afterwards but unfortunately, the map and design of the palace, traced out from the British archives in 2003 for repair purposes, did not match the existing building, which has emerged as a major hurdle for the work,'' official sources said.

Talking to UNI here today, state Tourism Minister Anil Sarkar said, ''Either the reconstruction of the palace in 1901 was deviated from the basic architectural design or the original map may have been lost or damaged. However, now we are working on redesigning the palace as well as renovating it at an estimated cost of Rs five crore in two phases.'' Superintendent Engineer of the state PWD department Sukumal Bhattacharjee said the state government had engaged the Kolkata-based Spacecaps, a leading designing concern, for technical survey of the palace for 'Seismic Retro setting', and a five-member Architectural team, led by Mr Narendranath Mitra, started the work last week.

Following the instructions of the Centre, the state governments of the earthquake-prone regions had carried out seismic survey after the 2001 earthquake in Gujarat and found that the Ujjayanta palace, the only heritage fort in the NE, had developed defects in its structure, which might pose a threat during an earthquake.

Acting upon the advice of the world's leading expert in Structural and Engineering Technology and the Head of the Department of the Earthquake Engineering Branch at IIT, Roorkee, the state government had sought help from Martin and Burn's in 2003.

However, no fruitful result could be achieved, which forced the authorities to lay out a fresh architectural map, Mr Bhattacharjee added.


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