On July 6, Jaipur residents had a reason to feel elated as the Pink City was inscribed as a World Heritage Site, making it the 38th Indian entry to be added to the list of 1121 such spots across the world.
So far, only China, Italy, Spain, Germany, and France have more locations on the list than India.
What is a World Heritage Site?
A World Heritage Site is a location having an “Outstanding Universal Value”. According to the World Heritage Convention’s Operational Guidelines, an Outstanding Universal Value signifies “cultural and/or natural significance which is so exceptional as to transcend national boundaries and to be of common importance for present and future generations of all humanity.”
The Sites fall into three categories: cultural heritage, natural heritage, and mixed heritage (cultural as well as natural). Cultural heritage entails an Outstanding Universal Value from the point of view of history, art or science, and includes monuments, groups of buildings, and sites which are the combined work of nature and human agency. Examples include the Taj Mahal, the Statue of Liberty, and the Sydney Opera House. The Sites under natural heritage are those having an Outstanding Universal Value from the point of view of science, conservation or natural beauty, such as the Sundarbans Natural Park or the Victoria Falls.
Of the 1121 World Heritage Sites in the world, 869 are cultural, 213 are natural, and 39 are mixed.
Who selects the Sites?
The UNESCO World Heritage Committee meets at least once every year, generally in June/July, to deliberate the addition, removal, or modification of items on the list of World Heritage Sites. The Committee comprises of 21 members selected from amongst 192 States Parties (signatories) of the 1972 Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, also called the World Heritage Convention.
The current session of the Committee which is in progress at Baku, Azerbaijan, is the 43rd such meet since the formation of the Committee in 1976.
How do countries get their preferred spots included?
According to the Guidelines, the State Parties prepare a Tentative List, or the “inventory of those properties situated on its territory which each State Party considers suitable for nomination to the World Heritage List.”. A nomination document is then prepared in this regard based on which the application is considered by the Committee.
In India, the Indian National Commission for Co-operation with UNESCO (INCCU), and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) are the bodies which play a key role in this regard.
After receiving nominations from the State Parties, the Committee then puts them through a rigorous examination before any new location can qualify as a World Heritage Site.
What happens after a World Heritage Site is declared?
Most importantly, getting featured on the list of World Heritage Sites affords the location a coveted status, driving up demand for travel and tourism from around the world geared towards it.
At the same time, a heavy onus is placed on the government of the country in which the Site is located for its conservation and upkeep. The Committee conducts regular audits at declared Sites, and can place a spot that is seriously threatened on the List of World Heritage in Danger. If the Outstanding Universal Value of the property is destroyed, the Committee can consider deleting the property from the World Heritage List