The Archaeological Survey of India has shortlisted 18 “untraceable” monuments that it plans to remove from its list of 3,693 centrally protected monuments, on grounds that they no longer hold national importance, The Indian Express reported.

The 18 monuments have been chosen from a list of 24 “untraceable monuments” that the Union Ministry of Culture submitted to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture in December.

The monuments “have become untraceable over the years due to rapid urbanisation, [being] submerged by reservoirs [and] dams, difficulties in tracing in remote locations [and] dense forests, non-availability of their proper location etc.,” the Centre noted.

The ones earmarked for delisting include Minar number 13 at Mujessar village in Haryana, Bara Khamba cemetery in Delhi, Gunner Burkill’s tomb at Rangoon in Jhansi, a cemetery at Gaughat in Lucknow and the Telia Nala Buddhist ruins, which are part of a deserted village in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh.

The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958, mandates the Archaeological Survey of India to preserve monuments of national importance as sites of cultural and historical significance. Construction activities are prohibited in and around such sites.

However, Section 35 of the Act empowers the archaeological body to delist those monuments that “have ceased to be of national importance”.

On March 8, the Centre issued a gazette notification declaring its intention to delist the 18 monuments and invited “objections or suggestions” from the public within two months.

Once delisted, the body will no longer be bound to protect these monuments from urbanisation or other violations of the Act.

In December, the Union culture ministry had informed Parliament that 50 protected monuments in the country have gone missing, including 11 in Uttar Pradesh.

The ministry report, “Issues relating to Untraceable Monuments and Protection of Monuments in India”, submitted to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture said that out of 50 monuments, 26 had been lost to urbanisation or been submerged by reservoirs, while 24 were “untraceable”.

In 2013, the Comptroller and Auditor General had declared 92 monuments “missing” in its Performance Audit of Preservation and Conservation of Monuments and Antiquities of Union Government report.

Later, the Archaeological Survey of India said it had been able to identify 42 of the monuments and recommended that they be “rationalised and categorised” on the basis of their national significance, unique architectural value and specific heritage content.