As Winterkjm has reminded us in "New Tentative Lists", India has just added Ahmadabad to its T List – the result of a long term campaign to gain "World Heritage City" status for the city which must still have a fair way to go! The following link from 2010 is typical - but note the confident phrase "Ahmadabad is sure to be the first Indian city to gain World Heritage City status it was evident from UNESCO"!! http://www.fundoonews.com/2010/04/ahmedabad-booked-world-heritage-city-tag-for/
In fact India seems particularly obsessed with the "idea" of "World Heritage Cities" and several are apparently engaged in trying to achieve this status. These include :-
Delhi – amazingly since it already has 3 individual siteshttp://www.india-server.com/news/delhi-fulfills-criteria-for-unescos-8020.html
I know of no other country where the phrase "World Heritage City" looms so large. India seems particularly concerned that none of its cultural sites actually includes a "living city" – whereas the List contains numerous such cities elsewhere around the world. As the Delhi campaign indicates, even already having 3 individual sites inscribed from within a city, doesn't apparently meet the ambition!!
The T List entry for Ahmadabad contains this illuminating statement"To the casual tourist, many of Ahmadabad's monuments may seem to lack elegance, encumbered as they often are by drab and totally indiscriminate accretions to them, and modem installations around and within them. But with a modicum of generous consideration for a city that has overgrown itself, the beauty and ingenuity of many a dome, screen, or minar composition of the edifices will in any case be appreciated."
The question is, I guess, whether ICOMOS/UNESCO will show this "modicum of generous consideration"
for Ahmadabad, or for that matter, any other Indian city!!!
I personally find it difficult to conceive of any Indian "living" city centre meeting the requirements of authenticity and management – or is this an excessively Eurocentric view? Is there any real reason why the centres of Damascus, Cairo, Kathmandu, Lijiang and Luang Prabang for instance should be capable of inscription whilst Ahmadabd (which, among other things, is famous for its "Pols" see - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pol_(housing)
) is not? I suspect it has become much harder over recent years to get significant parts of living city centres inscribed – especially where they do not have access to the legal framework and funds available in "developed" cities such as Amsterdam (which achieved the status in 2010 of course). Also there in the case of some cities there has been a subtle retreat from apparent "full" inscription as the requirements for definition and documentation of the inscribed areas have grown – thus Kathmandu underwent a significant "redefinition" of its boundaries in 2006 to just 7 limited sites from within the previously undefined and apparent entire "Kathmandu Valley" of 1979 (even though it kept this as its name)!!
This review of the problems of Hyderabad in getting even a part of its heritage inscribed could be written about ANY Indian city :- "It doesn't take an expert to discover the reason why the WHS tag has been evading Golconda. As per the Ancient Monuments Archaeological Sites and Remains Act of 1958, the area within 100 metres of a monument (in some cases it is 300 metres) is prohibited and no construction activity is allowed. But there are more than 1,000 houses in the prohibited area of Golconda fort and nearly 25 dwellings within 30 feet of the fort wall.
The tombs complex had a good buffer zone before with no encroachments. Now, encroachments have attained menacing proportions in the fort zone with the authorities expressing helplessness on the ground that the area has been inhabited by people for centuries. A large number of dwellings inside and outside the fort, especially near Moti Darwaza and Banjara Darwaza, and slums along the fort walls do not cut a pretty picture. More houses are coming up atop the hill leading to the fort, all this even as officials look the other way.
"No official will dare demolish the constructions at this stage, clearly under political pressure. No political party will antagonise the locals, more so when there is a talk about GHMC elections," says Sajjad Shahid, Intach member.
Moreover, doubts are being expressed on the upkeep of the fort and the tombs. Asserting that rampant encroachments in the prohibited as well as regulated zones are the biggest stumbling blocks for the fort from securing the WHS status, Shahid says: "Just brushing up the fort and the tombs here and there whenever a Unesco official visits them won't do. In fact, the conservation standards followed by the babus leave a lot to be desired."
Hyderabad district collector Navin Mittal admits that the administration is aware of the encroachments. "It is difficult to monitor the encroachments, more so when there is stiff resistance from the dwellers, some of whom have patta lands within the fort," he says."
I suspect matters are no better in those other Indian cities which are clamoring for "World Heritage city" status – even the tactic (albeit "short" of going for a "World Heritage city"!) of limiting the inscribed area to a small neighbourhood won't overcome the problem of previous uncontrolled and unauthentic development right up to any selected building nor to the problem of control of future developments in a country whose "democracy" and administration may have its faults but, quite rightly, finds it difficult to adopt the "clearance by diktat" policies used in countries such as China when faced with similar problems! The trouble is that I doubt if there are even any historic neighbourhoods of Indian cities which haven't been disfigured by "indiscriminate accretions" as the Ahmedabad T List entry calls them - in which case the only way out would seem to be significant clearances of such structures with all the political downsides identified for Hyderabad! UNESCO/ICOMOS perhaps need to consider whether a "less than ideal" interpretation of authenticity/required management practices in order to allow at least what is in situ today to be inscribed, with the hope that once "inside the fold" small incremental improvements could be made, might be better than total rejection and the complete destruction of what does still remain.
Indeed the number of Indian sites which have been inscribed despite ICOMOS having reservations about the lack of management plans etc could demonstrate that this has been happening already. If so the results so far have not really demonstrated that significant influence can be exerted on such inscribed sites. Alternatively of course the fact that the WHC ignored ICOMOS might be more due to political aspects than to any deep "strategy"!