What value do we place on the Heritage City label?
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From 12,502 in 2001, only 2,236 heritage buildings exist today; Photo: Jignesh vora
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A two-decade effort earned Ahmedabad the Heritage City tag
Almost five years after Ahmedabad was declared a UNESCO World Heritage City on July 8, 2017, the UNESCO-suggested heritage conservation plan has yet to be implemented. The World Heritage City Trust, launched by the Municipality of Ahmedabad for the conservation of heritage buildings, was supposed to submit a heritage conservation plan by December 31, 2021.
The World Heritage City Trust had passed a resolution to appoint Urban Management Consulting Pvt Ltd on September 21, 2021 to formulate a heritage conservation plan. The work order for the same was given on October 7, 2021. The plan was supposed to be submitted on December 31, 2021, but the deadline was missed. The submission deadline has now been extended to July 31, 2022.
Now the big question is whether the plan will be submitted on time and what will be the timetable for its implementation. Surprisingly, so far, announcements worth millions of dollars have been made for the preservation of the city’s heritage, but no concrete projects have been launched.
The AMC had decided on a tourism management plan and a heritage conservation plan, but nothing has been done in five years. Cultural and heritage exhibitions based on heritage themes were planned, but they are not yet implemented. A heritage building center to train workers in heritage conservation and the construction of a heritage garden on the eastern flank of the riverside were on the anvil, but both have been shelved. The only works approved are the lighting of heritage buildings.
The World Heritage City Trust meeting held recently lasted two hours during which the consultant made a presentation of the urban area plan as part of the heritage conservation plan. Suggestions to encourage owners of heritage buildings in the Old Town and necessary GDPR changes were made. Although the presentation was well accepted, there is no word on its final implementation. Although eight months have passed since his appointment, the consultant has not kept his promises. In fact, he was granted a two-month extension. AMC did not consider imposing a penalty on the consultant nor did it consider it prudent to issue a notice of delay.
The status of being India’s first World Heritage City is a matter of pride, but efforts to meet expectations fall short. The Old City has more than 2,236 heritage buildings, but not even 50 have applied for TDR benefits. The activity of demolishing heritage buildings and constructing commercial buildings has not stopped. Getting a TDR is stacked with problems. More importantly, there are only seven months left to submit the heritage conservation plan to UNESCO. Once the plan is prepared, the necessary changes will need to be made to the GDPR and UNESCO will also need to be informed of what has been implemented. Plans exist on paper but heritage conservation requires serious work.
From 12,502 in 2001, only 2,236 heritage buildings exist today
A two-decade effort has gone into Ahmedabad to earn the Heritage City label. The CMA’s Heritage Cell, in cooperation with the French government, carried out the preliminary classification and classification of 12,502 heritage buildings. The work of preparing a dossier for the World Heritage City has been entrusted to Professor RJ Vasavada and a provisional list of 2,701 heritage buildings has been drawn up in different categories. The indicative list was examined by the committee of experts on June 26, 2014. In 2015, the urban planning committee listed 2,247 heritage buildings on the indicative list. Objections were invited to notify buildings and 18 were received. No less than 2,236 buildings have been notified and the process of including 12 buildings in the heritage list is underway.
World Heritage City Trust director resigns over pay raise issue
Former deputy city commissioner Utpal Padiya, who had been appointed director of the Ahmedabad World Heritage City Trust, had demanded an increase in his salary from Rs 75,000 to Rs 1.50,000 per month and demanded facilities including a car. BJP leaders had opposed the proposal and resented him for not informing them before asking for a hike. However, Padiya refused to work as manager if the raise was not approved and tendered his resignation. The city trust which met on Thursday offered to pay Rs 1 lakh which was rejected. Officials from the trust’s BJP office opposed the proposal to rename Padiya. Following this, the proposal was rejected by the City Commissioner and other officials.