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Climate change threat to 5 historic Indian sites

india Updated: Jun 08, 2007 13:02 IST
Reshma Patil
Reshma Patil
Hindustan Times
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Five historic Indian sites — two from Rajasthan — are now among the world’s 100 most endangered sites threatened either by climate change, conflict or unregulated development, according to an international panel.

The World Monuments Fund (WMF) released the 2008 World Monuments Watch List — compiled by experts in archaeology, art history, architecture and culture in New York on Wednesday.

For the first time, the list includes cultural treasures threatened by global warming, forging a connection between the Leh Old Town, Ladakh, and the historic neighbourhood of New Orleans, Louisiana. Leh is threatened by seismic activity, melting glaciers and floods, while New Orleans grapples with hurricanes and rising seas.

Among sites at ‘grave risk from conflict’ is the Srinagar Heritage Zone, in a category that includes the bombed fragments of the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan and Iraq’s cultural sites.

“Demand for land in historic areas of Srinagar is raising commercial value of many residential buildings, which are being sold, demolished, and converted into modern dwellings or shopping malls,’’ Mark Weber, WMF technical director, told HT in an e-mail from New York. “Unplanned, unregulated development schemes and a lack of basic amenities make Srinagar perhaps the most threatened yet valuable site in India.”

The Jantar Mantar observatory in Rajasthan has begun to deteriorate due to weathering, vandalism, and normal wear and tear, said Weber.

“The most urgent issue is the loss of the fine, calibrated markings on the instruments, which are eroding.”

With over 3,000 visitors a day, the former citadel of Amber Town, Rajasthan, risks losing its fragile cultural heritage as historic structures are torn down to make way for hotels and shops. “Such listings are a blessing in disguise,” said conservationist/author Sharda Dwivedi.

“They draw international attention to endangered sites like Amber, offering hope for improving their condition.” Previous lists included the Taj Mahal and Mumbai’s Watson Hotel, the oldest and barely surviving example of cast-iron architecture in India.