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First city in heritage queue

New Delhi, Dec. 31: Chandigarh could become the first city in India to find a place on Unesco’s world heritage list.

India has placed the “urban and architectural works of Le Corbusier in Chandigarh” on the “tentative list” of sites that Delhi is likely to push in the coming years for the world heritage list.

The proposal for Chandigarh comprises the core area of the city that was planned by the Swiss-born architect. The buildings listed in the proposal are all part of the Phase-I plan of the city, spread over 70 sq km and built between 1951 and 1965.

It includes the Capitol with its four main features — the high court, legislative assembly, secretariat and Museum of Knowledge — and monuments like the Open Hand made out of beaten iron.

It also incorporates the Sukhna lake precincts, the Leisure Valley, Cultural Centre and City Centre.

The nomination is just short of a formal one.

At least a year before sending in a formal dossier, governments are expected to contribute a tentative list of sites which they want to be considered for the world list. This allows Unesco the time to assess the sites.

It is not clear yet when, if at all, India would make up its mind on formally nominating Chandigarh. But it is certainly not happening in 2007.

For the New Year, the official recommendation from India will be the Red Fort, tourism and culture minister Ambika Soni has hinted.

Red Fort was put on the tentative list only in 2005. But many other Indian proposals, some made back in 1998, also remain on the wish list.

Le Corbusier’s Chandigarh was one of the four suggestions sent from India in 2006 for the tentative list. The other three are “natural” sites — the Wild Ass Sanctuary in the Little Rann of Kutch in Gujarat, the Western Ghats sub-clusters and the Namdhapa National Park in Arunachal Pradesh.

India, so far, has 26 entries on the world heritage list. These include the Taj Mahal, the Chola Temples, the monuments at Hampi, churches in Goa, Fatehpur Sikri, the Kaziranga wildlife park and Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus.

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