The master plan included maintaining at least 11-metre water level
Erstwhile Tripura king Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya Bahadur had built the Neermahal in 1930 in the midst of Rudrasagar as his summer residence. With a water area of 364 acres, it is among India's national lakes, located 55 km from Agartala. Originally with an area of 816 hectares, the Rudrasagar Lake has now shrunk due to encroachments, misuse and even the setting up of two brick kilns in the vast complex.
"Work on the project would start soon. The majority of the work would be completed by the state PWD within two years," an official of the state tourism corporation told IANS.
He said that a meeting chaired by Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar, who heads the Left Front government, was held here earlier in the week to finalise the master plan, for which funds had also been sought from the central government. "Under the master plan, the Neermahal would be provided seismic retrofitting to prevent it from possible earthquake damage," the official said.
The master plan included maintaining at least 11-metre water level in the Rudrasagar Lake during summer and winter, construction of a ring road, watchtowers, small cottages and an open-air theatre, besides other basic amenities.
"The superb palace, which is in near-ruins due to neglect and the ravages of time, is surrounded by weeds on all sides and the boats that ferry visitors to the palace are rickety, indicating all-round neglect and disregard to the heritage palace," said tourism expert Subhash Das, editor of "Parjatan", a periodical on tourism.
"Neermahal presents a sad contrast to the Lake Palace in Udaipur, which attracts hundreds of tourists due to its grandeur and good maintenance. More than one third of the original areas of Rudrasagar Lake are being used for the business and individual interests of some people," Das told IANS.
"Large parts of Rudrasagar Lake have been encroached upon, despite being home to Neermahal," said Arun Nath, secretary of Mukta Manch, a body of environmentalists, intellectuals, educationists and writers.
"We have urged both the central and Tripura governments to protect the heritage site but nothing has been done," Nath told IANS.
"Two brick kilns and paddy fields have sprung up in the area of Rudrasagar Lake, which was declared India's 13th national lake in 1993," he said.
A blend of Hindu and Muslim architecture, and about 400 metres long, the erstwhile king's summer resort has 24 rooms besides provisions for private quarters (Andarmahal) for the king and his family and retinue of servants.
It also had a dance hall and an assembly hall where the king would meet the people. The tracts of green fields edging the lake come alive with birdsong during the annual arrival of migratory birds. Access to the palace was by boat, which led directly to the residential area.