'Delhi still could be in UNESCO heritage tag race next year'

Delhi is not vying for being named the UNESCO World Heritage City this year but conservators feel "all is not lost" for the historic city and it maybe in the global reckoning next year as the AAP government is pushing for the coveted status.

'Delhi still could be in UNESCO heritage tag race next year'

New Delhi: Delhi is not vying for being named the UNESCO World Heritage City this year but conservators feel "all is not lost" for the historic city and it maybe in the global reckoning next year as the AAP government is pushing for the coveted status.

The Centre had a few months ago decided to "pull out" the nomination of Delhi as the UNESCO World Heritage City, saying the prestigious tag, if granted, will put "lot of restrictions" on carrying out infrastructure works in the national capital.

The World Heritage Committee, currently in session in Bonn in Germany is evaluating 38 nominations from around the globe for being inscribed into the heritage list of the world body.

"Delhi may not be in the reckoning this year, but we still believe that all is not lost for Delhi. As, technically, it is not 'withdrawal' of the nomination, but a 'postponement'.

So, next year, positively, we can again be in the race, but it all eventually depends how pro-active the Centre will be on it," Convener, INTACH Delhi Chapter A G K Menon told PTI.

Menon led the team from INTACH's city chapter to prepare the "voluminous" nomination dossier sent by the Centre in January last year. The Union Ministry of Culture had sent the initial nomination to the UNESCO in 2012.

"As an NGO, we (INTACH) are trying to still pursue the case, since we believe in it and the Delhi government too is pushing the case with the Centre, as we have been apprised. We met the Chief Secretary a few days ago, and though we haven't received any concrete assurance from their side, it's not a no either, so we are also positive," he said.

The Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP dispensation is very keen on the city getting the heritage tag. During a meeting held at the Delhi Secretariat on June 3, Kejriwal had expressed "surprise" over the Modi government's move to pull the city out of the race for the coveted tag.

He had also directed the Chief Secretary to approach the External Affairs and Culture ministers to know the way forward.

The Chief Secretary has reportedly written to the Centre, asking it to "reconsider" the decision.

"All factors seems to be in our favour, the only impediment now is the Centre," Menon claimed.

The 39th Session of the World Heritage Committee began on June 28 and will end on July 8, after which the results would be announced.

A team from UNESCO had visited the city in October to examine the heritage sites mentioned in the dossier.

The two areas listed in the dossier are Shahjahanabad in old Delhi which has 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.

Menon said, since, most of the groundwork and necessary inspection and examination has already been done, now "it won't take much time, this time round."

Heritage experts believed that the tag would "boost tourism" in Delhi, besides generating pride in the centuries- old city, and the Centre's decision to take it out of the race, had disheartened many of them.

Delhi's bid for the prestigious tag was being seen as a role model for "other historic cities to follow suit".

"This will set a very bad precedence," former Regional Director (North) of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), K K Muhammed told PTI.

"It has dashed the hopes of so many people, who have been working for preservation of heritage in the country. It was supposed to be a moral booster for them, but instead it is a sad commentary. I still hope if something positive can still be worked out from here," he said.

Menon said, "It is a completely wrong notion that heritage is against development. We wanted the tag for Delhi because we saw the city as symbolic of India where heritage and development can go side by side."

Muhammed added that, "Delhi was seen as India's effort to get its first world heritage city. And, after Delhi, cities like Varanasi could have followed suit."

The efforts to get the coveted tag was initiated by the Sheila Dikshit government which commissioned Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) to prepare a dossier for the bid.

Should AAP government vie for naming Delhi the UNESCO World Heritage City next year? in Nation on LockerDome

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