UNESCO to examine Delhi's bid for World Heritage City in Sept

Last Updated 29 June 2014, 06:34 IST

A team from UNESCO will be visiting the national capital sometime during September to examine the city's heritage sites, which are part of a dossier sent by India to the world body in pursuance of Delhi's bid for a World Heritage tag.

Delhi Chapter of Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) had prepared the "voluminous" dossier on behalf of the Delhi government, which was eventually submitted to UNESCO by the Union Culture Ministry in January.

The two areas listed in the nomination dossier are -- Shahjahanabad in old Delhi which has the Mughal-era heritage and Lutyens' Bungalow Zone (LBZ) in New Delhi, part of the new imperial capital designed by Sir Edwin Landseer Lutyens and Sir Herbert Baker after the 1911 Delhi Durbar.

"We are constantly in correspondence with the UNESCO regarding this and so far what we have got to know is that a team from their side would be visiting sometime in September to evaluate the sites that have been nominated in our dossier," Convener, INTACH Delhi Chapter A G K Menon told PTI.

"The visit is likely to be of two to three days during which the team will evaluate the heritage sites to ascertain the claims made in the dossier," Menon said.

He said the dossier has been meticulously prepared and runs into several pages and "also has many annexures attached to it", detailing the sites.

On the composition of the team, he said, while nothing has been made official from their (UNESCO) side about its composition, "I'm sure they will send people who understand India, its ethos, and its cultural and economic context."

"Indian cities cannot be compared with their European counterparts. So, for Delhi's Shahjahanabad, which is ancient and yet a living city, an organic city, economic constraints do impinge upon the conditions of such places. But, I still have positive vibes about it and we hope for the best," he added.

After evaluation of the sites here, the UNESCO will then eventually decide on "inscribing" the city in the World Heritage List, the announcement for which would be made in June 2015. 

But, Menon who claims, "tag or no tag", the process of nomination itself has "immensely benefited Delhi already".

"Although, the 'World Heritage City' tag is the benchmark for us, but, but the nomination itself has accrued benefit to the city, which is an eclectic mix of so many layers of histories. And, so whether it is tourism or projects, it has helped tremendously," he said.

The visit also will come in the backdrop of Gujarat's 11th century stepwell 'Rani Ki Vav' and Himachal Pradesh's Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP) having been accorded the coveted tag earlier this month.

"I think both our nominations -- Rani Ki Vav (cultural site) and GHNP (natural site) from last year, which have been accepted for inscription, will be a great morale booster for India," Menon said.

But, the UNESCO nomination is "not an end in itself", as the ultimate purpose is to effect "heritage-oriented" policies, and the onus for which lies on the government, he said.

But, yes, if Delhi gets the nod, it will also provide a "huge impetus" to other cities to go for the same, cities like Varanasi.

But, former ASI Delhi Circle chief K K Muhammed, rues not having a single heritage city in India, and blames it on lack of heritage-protection policies or policies detrimental to existing heritage fabric of a city.

"Even a small country like Nepal has three world heritage cities including Kathmandu. We may have sent Delhi's name for the coveted tag, but what is the status of heritage in the national capital," he asked.

In the tentative dossier prepared about two years ago, four zones had been nominated, but Menon said, "judging their conditions, we removed Nizamuddin and Mehrauli from our list. Also, we took out Connaught Place from the Lutyen's Bungalow Zone list, to not risk our bid, as the market place's character has been commercialised."

Meanwhile, INTACH has been organising conferences and seminars in promoting Delhi's bid and more programmes are lined up ahead of the visit.

"In August, we are holding a seminar on management of world heritage cities, and its a further step in our bid as the dates draw closer," Menon said. 

(Published 29 June 2014, 05:16 IST)

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