Delhi pushes for Heritage City status

By Madhusree Chatterjee, IANS

New Delhi: A new heritage tourism route linking at least 30 big and small historical monuments in this capital city is in the works. It is the first step to help Delhi bag Unesco World Heritage City status.

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Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (Intach) – the country’s leading non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of heritage – last week completed a blueprint of the route between the Red Fort and Humayun’s tomb along the busy Mathura Road.

“The route will link at least 30 big and small historical monuments as part of a mega project, Delhi Heritage Route, designed to put the capital in the list of 220 heritage cities worldwide in a bid to preserve the city’s 1,000-year old cultural and historical wealth,” A.G. Krishna Menon, convenor of the Delhi chapter of Intach, told IANS.

The monuments along the route can be accessed by a special hop-on-hop-off heritage bus and cycles from the Cycle Society.

“We have spoken to the Cycle Society to loan us bicycles so that tourists can visit some of the monuments that will be inaccessible by the heritage bus,” said Menon.

The pilot project has been funded by the World Monuments Fund (WMF), which has pitched in with $200,000 as a start-up grant.

“This stretch of the Mathura Road has several important monuments like Feroz Shah Kotla, Purana Qila, the Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg and several smaller structures. These will be beautified with aesthetic landscaping, attractive signages, lights and fancy street furniture as well as cafes so that they become friendly spaces. The aim is to best showcase the cognitive heritage of the capital to attract global attention,” Menon said.

The project divides Delhi into seven heritage precincts between the ridge and the river. The Intach report has been sent to the Delhi government for implementation.

Intach had signed a heritage pact with the government of Delhi in 2008 for sustainable development of the capital’s cultural heritage that will help it become a World Heritage City.

The World Heritage City status is granted by Unesco after a complex screening of the heritage conservation of a city and its history. Some major heritage cities include London, Rome and Jerusalem.

The project should not run into hurdles because it has been cleared the Delhi government and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), said Menon.

The heritage route will be spread across a 50-km stretch from the Coronation Park in the north, where the durbar commemorating the cornonation of King George V of Britain took place in 1911, Red Fort, Chandni Chowk, Nizamuddin, Daryaganj, Feroz Shah Kotla, Purana Qila (Old Fort), Lutyen’s Delhi, Rashtrapati Bhavan, Mehrauli, Sultangarhi and even Tughlakabad.

The Delhi Development Authority (DDA) has also asked Intach to restore the derelict Coronation Park as part of the pilot project.

“Once we identify the rest of the routes in a year, it will enable us to push for Heritage City status for Delhi at the Unesco,” Menon said.

Explaining the background of the project, he said the culture and tourism ministry, Intach and the ASI had agreed a long time ago that Delhi should be qualified as a World Heritage City.

“It is just that we decided to work towards it last year. We mooted a heritage route linked to the significant sites in the first phase,” Menon said.

The Delhi Heritage Route project was one of the four projects that WMF supported in 2008.

“We support anything creative that promotes sustainable development of heritage and tourism. We hope to see ourselves as a catalyst of change in Delhi so that it becomes a World Heritage City. The state should fund the rest of the routes,” Amita Baig of WMF told IANS.

Intach also plans to set up audio-visual interpretation centres at the archaeological sites along the routes to “enhance the visitors’ knowledge of the monuments”, set up a women’s museum at Qudsia Palace in Qudsiabagh near Kashmere Gate and chronicle the oral history of the capital based on the memories of the old residents as part of the World Heritage City campaign.

(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at [email protected])