Matheran might make it to Unesco’s heritage list | mumbai | Hindustan Times
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Matheran might make it to Unesco’s heritage list

Matheran would no longer be just a red-soil mountain with toy trains taken by people to get away from the summer heat of Mumbai, reports Shashank Rao.

mumbai Updated: Oct 20, 2009 00:59 IST
Shashank Rao

Matheran would no longer be just a red-soil mountain with toy trains taken by people to get away from the summer heat of Mumbai.

There are chances that Matheran would be put up on the esteemed list of World Heritage sites by Unesco.

This would not only put Matheran on the world tourist map, but will also help Central Railway (CR) improve the 19.97-km long Matheran Light Rail (MLR).

After a span of over a century of inaugurating the MLR in 1907, the CR plans to improve the speed of toy trains, running up to this Sahayadri mountain’s table top tourist spot.

At present, the trains can run at a maximum speed of 8 to 10 kmph due to the sharp curves.

“There are plans to increase the top speed of engines running the toy trains up to 20 to 25 kmph. But it’s a long term proposal which is part of an ongoing process,” said S. Mudgerikar, CR chief PRO.

This would help in reducing the time taken from Neral to Matheran from two hours to one and a half hours.

The first-time visit from the two-member Unesco team from October 27 to 29 would also bring heritage value to Matheran situated at a height of 803.98 m.

They will look at some of the important points like its universal value when compared with other heritage structures, whether it justifies the criteria of world heritage, threats to Matheran and steps taken to prevent it, plan to manage the site and whether it’s in good condition.

An inscription on the Unesco World Heritage List will bring huge spin-off benefits — leading to infrastructure development, a boost to environmental conservation and tourism promotion activities of the site.

Heavy rains in the first week of October have badly affected the tracks and trains from Neral to Matheran are not functioning.

Ali Akbar Adamjee Peerbhoy, grandson of industrialist Abdul Adamjee Peerbhoy who built MLR, said: “It’s more than 15 days since the trains have started working after monsoon and conditions are bad. People haven’t visited Matheran even during Diwali holidays due to the pathetic conditions.”

The Peerbhoy family is fighting the case against the government, who as per an agreement, is supposed to pay the Peerbhoys for the MLR. The amount today stands at Rs 19 crore.

The team was scheduled to arrive in India in September, but it had to be put off due to the unseasonal thundershowers that disrupted the train service. “Restoration work will soon be over and the service will re-start,” said a railway official on condition of anonymity.