Varanasi may soon become the countrys first World Heritage City. Experts from Spain,who are credited with turning the ugly industrial city,Bilbao,into Spains most sought after tourist destination,are being roped in to help the temple town get its long-due place in the coveted list.
On Monday,a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the Indian National Trust for Art,Culture and Heritage (INTACH),an autonomous body that works towards preservation of national heritage and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation (MFAC) of Spain was signed in New Delhi.
Both the agencies will jointly work to conserve historical sites such as the Sarnath Museum,Ashoka Lion Capital,ghats like Assi Ghat,Dasaswamedh Ghat,Harish Chandra Ghat,Manijarnika Ghat,Tulsi Ghat and Chunar Fort and Jaunpur, said S K Mishra,Chairman of INTACH.
Besides conservation of these sites,world class infrastructure will also be developed along these places. The project will be funded by the Centre,the state government,the Spanish government and several global cultural agencies, said Mishra.
Setting a two-year deadline for the project,Mishra said the work will start as soon as possible.
A team will soon visit temples,museums and the famous textile industries of Varanasi to prepare a plan to develop infrastructure at par with international standards, Mishra said after signing the MoU with Ambassador of Spain Ion De la Riva Guzman de Frutos.
Riva,who had lived in Varanasi for a few years,said a team of experts from Spain will attend a conference on urban development in Jodhpur next week.
The experts,along with a team from INTACH,will visit Varanasi and identify the areas for conservation and preservation once the modalities of the project are finalised by next week, said Mishra. Restoration work including landscaping,cleaning and renovation of ghats will be taken up in a phased manner,he added.
Navneet Raman,Varanasi convener of INTACH,described the project as best thing that has happened to the city in recent times.
He added that INTACH was already working on the urban heritage development plan to be executed in coordination with the Varanasi Development Authority (VDA).
The MoU also mentions Kolkatas Shanti Niketan. Here too,we will use Spains expertise to restore the paintings and artifacts, said Mishra.