Delhi is no longer vying for UNESCO’s World Heritage City status for which it had been preparing for the past seven years.
The Centre withdrew the capital’s nomination earlier this month fearing a heritage tag may hamper development in the city. Experts, however, refuse to believe it is a reason good enough.
The Sheila Dikshit-led Delhi government and the UPA government at the Centre had applied for a heritage tag for Delhi, showcasing the Mughal-era Shahjahanabad in Old Delhi and the Lutyens’ Bungalow Zone -- designed by Sir Edwin Landseer Lutyens and Sir Herbert Baker after the 1911 Delhi Durbar.
Union minister for culture Mahesh Sharma, however, said on Friday that there would have been restrictions on any construction had the city got a heritage tag. “We had a long discussion on the issue with the urban development ministry. There were reservations from the urban development ministry that if Delhi is declared World Heritage City, there would be lot of restrictions,” he said.
A urban development (UD) ministry official confirmed that officials of culture ministry had discussed the issue.
The culture ministry had sent the initial nomination to the UNESCO in 2012 and the final dossier for it, prepared by the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) was sent in January last year.
Conservationists, however, said such restrictions are imposed only around archaeological sites and a heritage tag would have only promoted development work in future.
“It is a puerile argument. Only 1.5% of the city (Shahjahanabad and LBZ) was being showcased for the heritage tag. How could that stop development in the rest of the capital? All other heritage cities like Paris and Rome have conserved heritage and managed development together,” said AGK Menon, convenor, INTACH that signed an MoU with Delhi government in 2008 to prepare for a tentative listing and prepared the final dossier.
Menon said that a heritage tag would have improved tourism thus contributing to the economy. “With no investment, tourism can benefit an economy. Spain, for instance, has 50 million population and 85 million tourists. Branding has great value,” he said.
A team from UNESCO visited the city in October last year to examine the heritage sites mentioned in the dossier and a decision was expected this June.
“The heritage status helps improve the infrastructure and create smart facilities. It was a good opportunity to access funds from international bodies for development. It is not correct to think that heritage is not pro-people. London is also a heritage city. That doesn’t mean there is no development there,” said urban planner AK Jain.
He said the urban renewal of Nizamuddin Basti is a living example of how heritage can bring about development.
Delhi government, in the meanwhile, has decided to write to the Centre about it.
“We are going to write to the Centre to ask why it has withdrawn from the race to get a heritage tag for Delhi without even consulting us. Delhi government had put in a lot of effort,” said tourism minister Jitendra Singh Tomar.