Mumbai moves one step closer to get its 3rd UNESCO World Heritage Site

Oct 02, 2013, 06:10 IST | Fiona Fernandez

Backed by the Maharashtra government, Mumbai's dossier that includes the Victorian and Art Deco ensemble for World Heritage Site status has been accepted as the city's official entry, and is now with UNESCO for its completion check

“We’ve crossed a huge hurdle!” the excitement and relief in Abha Narain-Lambah’s voice is palpable over the telephone. After all, the conservationist and the dedicated team at Urban Design Research Institute who worked untiringly to prepare Mumbai’s dossier for the UNESCO World Heritage Site list, have reason to be happy.

The good news is that the Union Ministry of Culture has accepted as the city’s nomination — the Victorian and Art Deco ensemble along with the Oval Maidan -- on September 30, as Mumbai’s official entry.

UDRI has reason to be happy
In mid-July, MiD DAY had tied up with UDRI and ran a month-long campaign via its print and web editions as well as on radio, to introduce, educate and inform readers about the importance and need for public backing for the cause. The result was unprecedented, and included a signature drive to push for the city’s third UNESCO World Heritage Site, after Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus and Elephanta Caves. Apart from the signatures, MiD DAY senior photographer Atul Kamble’s image (in picture) was also included in the official dossier when it was presented to the State government. “It was accepted by the Union Ministry of Culture on September 30, and will now be sent to the UNESCO office in Paris for a completion check. Both Delhi and Mumbai’s proposals have gone from India,” informs Narain-Lambah. The check by UNESCO will be completed by November, she adds, reminding that the Ministry will need to pick its official entry to represent India before January 31, 2014. Each country can send a single nomination.

State backing mattered
She is quick to thank the Maharashtra Chief Minister, Prithviraj Chavan and the State Chief Secretary, Jayant Banthia for providing their total support to this project. “It wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the Maharashtra government that did everything in their power to send our dossier in time, to meet with the deadline.

Following the necessary protocol, our Chief Minister sent a separate letter to the Union Ministry of Culture while our Chief Secretary also submitted another letter to the Secretary at the Union Ministry level.” State backing was of paramount importance in such issues, and it paid off, she tells us.

Mumbai’s pride: An aerial view of the Oval Maidan with Art Deco (left) and Victorian Gothic (right) buildings on either side. Pic/Atul Kamble

Narain-Lambah and the team at UDRI had gone to great lengths, for years together, to ensure that the preparation of the dossier met the highest standards and was in good hands with the right focus and direction.

Town planner and heritage expert Augusto Villalon from The Philippines and Dr Richard A Engelhardt, former UNESCO Regional Advisor for Culture in Asia and the Pacific were invited to the city to review the site and offer their suggestions and support. In true spirit of the city, countless Mumbai citizens threw in their hat with funding and other support to ensure that the dossier received the desired backing.

Abha Narain-Lambah
Abha Narain-Lambah

Now that the dossier is with UNESCO, Narain-Lambah and her team have their fingers crossed, like the rest of the city. “We’ve done our best. However, in case UNESCO requires more data, they will get in touch with us in this period, By November, the check will be complete. Until then, we can only wait and watch, and hope for the best for Mumbai,” she signs off, on a positive note.

The first city
Mumbai was the first Indian city to establish heritage regulatory norms that are still in place and are being observed 18 years since they were first initiated, in 1995. 

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