Shortly the Basilica of Bom Jesus, one of Goa's sacred churches, will have an eco-friendly roof, thanks to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) that desired visitors to have a 'healthy' experience at the over 400-year-old building.
The massive asbestos roof on the imposing laterite stone building will be replaced by eco-friendly galvanised sheet.
The decision was taken on the recommendations of the ASI to ensure that tourists were not exposed to the risk of cancer due to exposure to asbestos, Savio Barretto of the Basilica of Bom Jesus told IANS.
"Last year, the ASI had done the roof work and replaced a lot of older sheets with new asbestos sheets. But in a recent meeting, officials informed us that people were protesting against the move and demanding that modern galvanised sheets be put up on the Basilica roof. We agreed," Barretto said.
"We were informed that asbestos is not eco-friendly and according to studies it could cause diseases like cancer," he said.
Built in 1604 and located a short distance from the capital Panaji, the Basilica of Bom Jesus attracts thousands of tourists and devotees every year.
Until recently, the roof of the church was covered by clay Mangalore tiles.
A few decades ago, heavy maintenance costs forced the authorities to switch from tiles and rafters to asbestos to cover the 300 sq mt wide roof of the church.
The Basilica contains mortal remains of the Spanish saint St. Francis Xavier who brought Christianity to the region. The Navarra-born saint is now the patron saint of Goa.
The Basilica is also recognised as a Unesco (United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organisation) world heritage site.
"We agreed to the idea of galvanised sheets because all such heritage buildings in the world have discarded asbestos as a building material. I believe that the modern material would be of great help as it is eco-friendly too," Barretto said.