The Andhra Pradesh government’s request for the tag of UNESCO World Heritage site for some of its important monuments is yet again making rounds, what with the World Heritage Day celebrations just round the corner i.e. on April 18th. The bad news is that not a single structure from the state has made it to the tentative sites list of India. According to reports, it is this tentative list that is offered to UNESCO by the state party as proposals. The lists from the state parties are considered to define the nominations for the world heritage sites by the World Heritage Committee. As of now, India’s tentative list includes 44 sites.
ASI Director of World Heritage Committee, K Lourdusamy has asked the Archaeological Survey of India’s Hyderabad chapter to design a detailed proposal for the heritage sites, namely Nagarjunakonda, Sankaram, Salihundam and Lepakshi, by checking if they are eligible to be added to this tentative list. The requests of the state government to include Amaravati Maha Stupa, Guntupalli Caves, Chandragiri Fort, Gandikota Fort and Borra Caves in the UNESCO Heritage list was rejected by the Culture and Tourism Ministry, stating that these were not included in the tentative list.
According to Edward Paul, who is a member of Intach and also a well known historian, all the proposed sites have the potential to gain the UNESCO tag which in turn will get them space on the world map. However, he says that the state government needs to be compliant of the strict guidelines, an important one being that no development work can be carried out around the proposed site.
ASI’s Hyderabad chapter’s Deputy Superintendent Archaeologist, D Kannan Babu said that the sites in the undivided AP that were proposed did not make it to the list because there were no proper tourism facilities there and the area around these are inhabited by humans.
He added that Salihundam, Lepakshi and Samkaram stand a good chance to gain the world recognition as Salihundam and Sankaram meet all the criteria stated by the World Heritage Committee. As for Lepakshi, they have already hired a private architectural firm to prepare all the documents and are making plans to shift and rehabilitate the people who live around this site. He has high hopes that Lepakshi will make it to the tentative list of heritage sites this year.
According to heritage activists, a UNESCO heritage tag surely ensures that more tourists would visit the site. However, this is no guarantee that more funds would be allocated for the upkeep and maintenance of these sites. They believe that the Central Government should formulate plans and take steps to protect these sites.