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Work for World Heritage status

Conservationists and historians have pitched for World Heritage City status for Delhi so that it becomes a tourist destination in itself like Cairo or Istanbul.

india Updated: Apr 29, 2006 02:56 IST

Conservationists and historians have pitched for World Heritage City status for Delhi so that it becomes a tourist destination in itself like Cairo or Istanbul. Currently, Delhi is viewed by tourists as a transit station before journeying onwards to Agra or Jaipur.

Once Delhi becomes a tourist destination in itself, it will increase awareness, promote tourism, art, culture and generate employment for hundreds of persons, said Prof AGK Menon at a panel discussion on “Making Heritage Work,” organised by the Delhi Urban Art Commission (DUAC). He said that right now conservation is treated as a luxury that a poor country could ill afford and conservationists are viewed as impediments by government organisations.

This situation can be changed. The city has over 1,200 listed monuments spanning many centuries which need to be integrated with landuse, tourism and employment policies of the government, Prof. Menon said. He pointed out that even ecologically sensitive areas that are natural heritage like river and ridge are treated by the Master Plan as green areas on which 10% development is permitted. These need to be protected from destruction, he said.

Historian Prof Narayani Gupta expressed concern over heritage getting alienated from the citizens and city life. It is possible to put heritage sites to non-invasive uses like organising cultural and art events in them to bring them back into the mainstream of city life.

“The Purana Qila provided a spectacular backdrop for the Ibrahim Alkazi’s play Tughlaq. We need to bring back life to our heritage sites so that they do not look like haunted places and shells,” the historian said. She said that the conservation and building reuse of the ex-Vice Regal Lodge in Delhi University (now the Vice Chancellor’s office) is an example of heritage being put to good use.

Convenor of the Delhi Chapter of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage OP Jain said that the Trust has been able to rope in government organisations to take conservation and restoration more seriously with the result that both DDA and MCD now have heritage cells. There is an apex conservation committee in the Urban Development Ministry too and is headed by SM Acharya who moderated the discussion. The INTACH has also set up heritage clubs in 160 schools across the city. It is also working on the development of the Mehrauli Archaeological Park in collaboration with DDA.