|Red Fort and Marine Drive
New Delhi, Sept. 25: This race is not for Delhi. For a change, Delhi is in the race.
The national capital is locked in a three-way contest with Mumbai and Ahmedabad for Unesco’s world heritage tag, though a member of the panel that advises on such matters said the city was “far ahead” of the other two.
Dossiers on the three cities have been sent to the UN body and the last date for submission of the official entry for 2015 is February 1.
This will be the first time India would forward a nomination for the coveted tag for an entire city. In Italy, at least half a dozen cities, including Rome, Florence, Pisa and Naples, enjoy the status. So do Paris and Tel Aviv.
The race, before the bigger race — the general election — began last week when the three Indian cities presented their case to the culture ministry’s advisory committee on world heritage matters. “We feel that Delhi is far ahead of the other two…. Most probably, Delhi will be our official entry for 2015,” said Shikha Jain, the panel’s member secretary.
Such a decision could, however, lead to heartburn in Ahmedabad as the Gujarat city, which has 29 ASI-protected structures and is the only one among the three to have been considered as a whole, was the first to reach Unesco’s tentative list in March 2011.
Delhi and Mumbai — where two precincts each have been chosen — were included in the list last year. For a site to get the world heritage tag, it has to first make it to the tentative list.
“What will clinch the title for us is that there are 600 years of different layers of heritage, beginning from the Sultanate era to the Solankis and the Rajput era, all well preserved,” said G.P. Mahapatra, commissioner, Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation.
Experts said there were several loopholes in Delhi’s case. One, the two precincts —Shahjahanabad, or the old city, and Lutyen’s Delhi — are distinct in character. Two, Shahjahanabad has no heritage bylaws in place. And three, the Red Fort, which is part of Shahjahanabad and is already a world heritage monument, will stand to lose its tag.
A.G.K. Menon, convener of heritage body Intach, said it was merely a “technical” point. “Red Fort is important in itself. If Delhi gets a world heritage tag, Red Fort, instead of being a world heritage monument, will become part of a world heritage precinct.”
Menon, who authored Delhi’s dossier, said the city has a great chance of making the cut. “There is a strong correlation between the old city and Lutyen’s New Delhi. While the Mughals had Agra and the British had Calcutta, both made Delhi their capital.”
Conservation architect Abha Narain Lamba, who prepared Mumbai’s dossier, feels the commercial capital — where Marine Drive and Fort George have been chosen — deserves the tag. “No other city has such a good collection of 19th-20th-century Victorian structures,” Lamba said.