The state Directorate of Archaeology and Museums has sent a proposal to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to conduct chemical conservation of the city’s World Heritage monument, the Gateway of India. The proposal was sent a few months ago after the department noted, during a regular cleaning of the structure, that’s its sea-facing side had deteriorated due to salt deposits, by more than 60 per cent.
The 90-year-old monument was completed in 1924 to commemorate the visit of Britain’s King George V and Queen Mary to India in 1911.
Chemical conservation will involve cleaning the monument with a suitable substance to keep deterioration at bay for at least another 30 years.
A cost estimate is being prepared by the chemical conservation branch of the ASI in Aurangabad, after which it will have to be cleared by ASI headquarters in Delhi. State officials believe that the work will begin early next year.
“The igneous rock of the Gateway of India is being hit by the weather. Whitish patches are seen on the surface due to saline deposits.
Once the conservation begins, the chemical will be diluted in water and the patches will be gone. The last time chemical conservation was conducted was more than 20 years ago. The monument has to stay in pristine condition for many years to come,” said Dr Maya J Patil, deputy director, Directorate of Archaeology and Museums, Maharashtra. She added that the patches were first noticed in February, when the department cleaned the monument with water.
“We saw that the stone was also covered with a thin layer of liquid, formed due to moisture and proximity to sea water. The entire monument showed deterioration due to salt, by between 20 per cent and 30 per cent and the sea-facing side by 60 per cent and 70 per cent,” said Vilas Wahane, the directorate’s assistant director.
Wahane said two weeks ago, a group of experts from ASI’s chemical conservation branch visited the Gateway. “They also took samples of the stone and have asked the stone laboratory at IIT Bombay to test them. We will then understand the degree of deterioration, as well the chemical required,” he said.
“Once funds are allotted, we can begin the work following the state government’s go-ahead. But with the model code of conduct for the state Assembly elections soon to be in place, we will have to wait,” Patil said. She added, “The chemical conservation branch is responsible for preserving the Ajanta and Ellora caves and the idol in the
The process is expected to take between two and four weeks, during which experts will work on one portion of the monument at a time, covering it with a scaffolding. At no point of time will the entire monument be closed to public view.
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