Crying shame that Delhi lost its chance to be a heritage city

On May 20, the Centre sacrificed the capital's UNESCO nomination, at the altar of 'development'.

 |  It Could Happen to You  |  2-minute read |   22-05-2015
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It’s a crying shame really. A shame that would haunt Delhi forever. 

Delhi has lost its chance to become a World Heritage City, the first in India. On May 20, the Central government withdrew its UNESCO nomination, without assigning any reason. Three decades of advocacy, a decade of hectic negotiation, five years of hard labour — all gone down the drain with the stroke of a thoughtless pen. 

Evidently, it has been sacrificed at the altar of "development". Clearly, no one in the government understands that getting a "heritage" tag would not have got in the way of "development". It would have boosted tourism (just think of Rome). And no one asked the nation if Delhi really wants to look like yet another Singapore. 

Delhi has an “aura” says professor AG Krishna Menon, architect, urban planner and conservation consultant, who has been advocating tirelessly for many years to elevate Delhi as a heritage city. That “aura” comes from its geography, history and culture: as a unique triangle between the Aravallis and the Yamuna, as a great nodal point linking the Gangetic plain with the Silk Route, as a 1,000-year-old seat of power that continues to be a “living city” till today. 

Painstakingly and slowly, urban planners and bureaucrats had negotiated with the UNESCO for the last several years, to make them understand why and how Delhi possesses an “Outstanding Universal Value,” the mandatory criterion that the UNESCO demands. 

Menon wrote in a 2014 issue of Seminar: “In a globalising and frequently homogenizing environment, the identity of a nation, its cities and its people can easily be sacrificed in pursuit of rapid development…Preservation of the past should provide the groundwork for developing a future city rather than being dismissed as an inconvenient obstacle.”

Poor Delhi. Some gift it has got on Modi government's first birthday.


Damayanti Datta Damayanti Datta @dattadamayanti

The writer is Executive Editor, India Today.

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