Delhi Heritage status decision deferred: Culture minister Mahesh Sharma

New Delhi, June 19 (IANS) Dealing a blow to the Delhi government’s efforts to revive the issue of the World Heritage City status for the national capital, Minister of State for Culture Mahesh Sharma said Friday that the decision is postponed for now. The minister was noncommittal about vying for the tag next year too.

“The decision is deferred for the time being,” Sharma told IANS, without explaining the reasons behind the decision, They are not reconsidering the decision next year, he added.

The centre has withdrawn Delhi’s nomination for the tag last month, just a month before UNESCO was to review nominations from across the world. The Delhi government had
approached the centre last week to review the decision.

Reacting to the minister’s comment, A.G.K. Menon, Convenor of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) said that the decision spells enormous loss for Delhi.

“All our hard work in the last five years has been wasted. The benefit was tangible and enormous. It could have helped the tourist flow a lot. Statistics from all over
the world show that tourism has benefited in a massive way from the heritage tag,” Menon told IANS.

The previous Congress government had sent the nomination to UNESCO in 2012 and the final dossier was prepared by INTACH was sent last January last year. The two designated sites were the walled city of Shahjahanabad and the Lutyens’s Bungalow Zone.

The centre has earlier claimed that the decision has been taken because it would hamper the infrastructure and development activity in the capital.

“We took the decision after having long discussion on the issue with the urban development ministry. We came to the conclusion that once the heritage tag is there, it will hamper some construction in the city plans and land use plans, so it will become difficult,” Sharma was quoted sas aying last month.

However, Menon contradicted the claim of restrictions on development.

“Since both the designated sites are already protected sites in the Master Plan of Delhi, there is no question of imposing restrictions by UNESCO. The heritage tag is not going to hamper any development activity. There are over 220 heritage sites in the world and nowhere it is affecting construction work. The total area covered by the bid was
only two per cent of the NCT of Delhi’s total area,” said Menon.

Delhi’s loss could be to the advvantage of Mumbai or Ahmebad next year, which are potential contenders for the UNESCO tag. However, Menon felt that being an eternal optimistic, he will pitch for Delhi in the coming years too.

“I hope that if not the next year, may be in the coming years, Delhi will vie for the tag. Being an eternal optimist, I am not ready to give up,” said Menon.

Three of Delhi heritage sites, the Red Fort, the Qutub Minar and Humayun’s Tomb,
are in the list of UNESCO’s 1,000-odd World Heritage Sites. However, no Indian city has earned the title of a World Heritage City.

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