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Heritage status: Matheran rly joins race

With the dossier for the Matheran Light Railway’s nomination for the World Heritage Site status finally being dispatched to the UNESCO office in Paris late last week...

Written by Prashant Rangnekar | Mumbai | Published: February 1, 2009 1:04 am

With the dossier for the Matheran Light Railway’s nomination for the World Heritage Site status finally being dispatched to the UNESCO office in Paris late last week,the Central Railway (CR) and the Railway Board are hoping that this hill railway will not miss the bus again.

“We have sent the necessary documents,including the maps of Matheran,” said Rajesh Agarwal,executive director (heritage) of the Railway Board. The nomination was supposed to reach UNESCO in Paris by Saturday.

The Matheran Light Railway had missed the deadline last year and senior rail officials had apprehensions of it not making to the nominations this year also,as CR was yet to submit some details to the Railway Ministry. However,the work was put on fast track and this helped in meeting

the deadline.

The Ministry has asked the Maharashtra Government to push hard for the nomination. “Two cultural nominations have been submitted (Jantar Mantar and Matheran Light Railway) but UNESCO will consider only one for inspection in 2009. A proactive involvement of Maharashtra Government is critical for the Matheran Light Railway to be prioritised for inspection,” the letter said.

Opened for traffic in 1904 on initiatives taken by Abdul Hussain,son of business tycoon Sir Adamjee Peerbhoy of Mumbai,who was a regular visitor to Matheran at the turn of the century,the Neral-Matheran route is part of the Mountain Railways of India. The 20-km line was washed away in the 2005 floods but was restored by the railway.

The other three mountain railways — the Darjeeling Himalayan railway,Nilgiri Mountain railway and the Kalka-Shimla railway — have already been conferred with the world heritage status by the UNESCO. Kangra Valley railway in

Himachal Pradesh is also a scenic hill railway.

The Matheran Light Railway’s Indian competition is with the Jantar Mantar,built between 1727 and 1734 by Maharaja Jai Singh II of Jaipur. He constructed five astronomical observatories in west central India. The observatories,or ‘Jantar Mantars’ as they are commonly known,incorporate multiple buildings of unique form,each with a specialised function for astronomical measurement.

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