Shilpa Raina looks into Delhi’s campaign to become World Heritage City
As Delhi gears up to welcome a team from Unesco in September to evaluate the national capital’s bid for the World Heritage City tag, an NGO spearheading the move says this idea should have been proposed earlier and reveals how “frustrating” it can be to negotiate with different government bodies.
“Delhi should have been nominated for the World Heritage City tag a long time ago, but the problem is that these things require a lot of time and effort. And, unfortunately, most of the officials think of these things as a headache and not about national pride,” INTACH Delhi Chapter convener A.G.K. Menon said.
The Delhi chapter of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) is involved in several conservation projects in the national capital.
Menon feels “lack of communication” among various government agencies make it difficult to speed up the conservation process.
“We are not blaming different bodies because they have to follow certain procedures, but what happens, at times, is that these bodies don’t even communicate with each other. So we act as interlocutors and communicate, but these negotiations take time and sometimes can be difficult,” Menon said.
Despite the bureaucratic hurdles, Menon took up the task to have Delhi inscribed in Unesco’s list of World Heritage Cities. The decision will be announced in June 2015.
On behalf of the Delhi government, INTACH prepared a 367-page mini bible on the capital, contending it is a city of “Outstanding Universal Value”.
Menon and his team of researchers compiled the voluminous dossier, which follows Unesco’s stringent submission guidelines, in three years. It is substantiated with double-spread photographs and the necessary documentation and maps.
The two specific areas listed in it are: Shahjahanabad in old Delhi, which has Mughal-era heritage, and Lutyens’ Bungalow Zone (LBZ) in New Delhi.
The argument INTACH is making is that Delhi is an outstanding example of an imperial city encompassing two stages in the Indian subcontinent’s history: the peak of the Mughal Empire and apogee of British rule.
“We chose these sites because their respective rulers at that time chose to leave their earlier capitals and made these two sites their new capitals,” said Menon, adding Delhi is also the city that has three World Heritage Sites – Qutub Minar, Humayun’s Tomb and the Red Fort.
To increase awareness about heritage and conservation, Menon feels children are the best target audience.
“Children are the best target audience to generate awareness about heritage and the society has to take ownership of cultural heritage,” Menon contended.
To this end, INTACH organises heritage quizzes in schools and colleges, as also seminars and workshops, to make youngsters heritage friendly.
“Preservation is still not a priority for people. This attitude can be changed by introducing them to this wonderful world early in their lives,” Menon concluded.