In a surprise move, the government has decided to nominate Ahmedabad for the UNESCO world heritage city tag this year. January 30 is the last date for countries to send their nominations to UNESCO for the title, results of which will be announced in June 2017, and the government has confirmed that Ahmedabad, and not Delhi or Mumbai, is its pick.
Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma said, “While Delhi’s proposal has been stuck with the Urban development ministry since last year, Mumbai’s proposal was not very strong. So we have decided to nominate Ahmedabad, which has a clear-cut proposal.”
Just a few days ago, the Delhi government had written to the Culture Ministry to resend Delhi’s nomination, which was abruptly “put on hold” last year. On the other hand, Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis and actor Amitabh Bachchan wrote to Sharma and PM Narendra Modi, respectively, to push for Mumbai this time. Incidentally, Bachchan is also the ambassador for Gujarat Tourism.
Conservation architect Abha Narain Lambah, who was involved in preparing Mumbai’s dossier, says, “Mumbai is the perfect example of a world-class city which has safeguarded its heritage value despite modernisation. Our dossier highlighted the blend of two centuries of architectural genres around the 22-acre Oval Maidan — the 19th century Neo-Gothic buildings and 20th century art deco buildings of Marine Drive.”
The Culture Ministry is supposed to officially endorse a nomination before it can be sent to UNESCO. The final call on Ahmedabad was taken late Thursday evening, citing loopholes in Mumbai’s dossier. A senior official from the ministry says, “We would have endorsed Mumbai but BMC had written to us, asking to exclude Victoria Terminus from the dossier. Such a move would have spoilt Mumbai’s chances as the said building is an iconic landmark in Mumbai’s consciousness.”
Lambah refuted the contention. “Victoria Terminus was never part of the dossier. From the beginning, we were quite clear as to what exactly we wanted to include in the proposal since once the heritage tag is granted, it puts certain restrictions on redevelopment… Ahmedabad’s nomination must have been prompted by other reasons.”
There are over 250 world heritage cities across the globe, but India — despite its long history and numerous heritage sites —has no UNESCO-recognised world heritage city. Ahmedabad, Delhi and Mumbai have made it to UNESCO’s tentative list, considered the first step before a detailed dossier for nomination can be submitted. The UNESCO tag adds immense brand value to the city and adds significantly to tourism footfall.
The Gujarat capital, said to be inhabited since the 11th century, has 36 ASI-protected structures, hundreds of pols that capture the essence of community living and a heritage cell to implement a revitalisation programme for historic sites.