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Ahmedabad becomes India’s first world heritage city

LiveMint logoLiveMint 09-07-2017 Maulik Pathak

UN cultural agency UNESCO on Saturday declared the 600-year-old walled city of Ahmedabad as a world heritage city, the first Indian city  to make it to the list. The World Heritage Committee of UNESCO met in Karlow, Poland on Saturday night where the decision was made. 

“Thrilled to announce! Ahmedabad has just been declared India’s first World Heritage city by UNESCO,” tweeted Ruchira Kamboj, India’s permanent representative to UNESCO.

"The journey began in 2010 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi proffered the dossier of Ahmedabad to UNESCO," Kamboj said in her speech after Ahmedabad’s inscription. 

With this title, the Walled City of Ahmedabad has joined Paris, Vienna, Cairo, Brussels, Rome and Edinburgh. Of the 287 world heritage cities across the globe, the only two cities in the Indian subcontinent which enjoy the status are Bhaktapur in Nepal and Galle in Sri Lanka.

The committee also added Asmara, the capital of Eritrea, to its list of World Heritage sites on Saturday. Earlier on Friday, it added Hebron-Al Khalil Old Town (Palestine) and W-Arly-Pendjari Complex (Benin, Burkina Faso) to the list. It also added the site of Hebron-Al Khalil to the list of World Heritage Sites in Danger.

“For over 600 years, Ahmedabad has stood for peace, as a landmark city where Mahatma Gandhi began India’s freedom struggle. It has stood for unity with its elegant carvings in its Hindu and Jain temples as well as standing as one of the finest examples of Indo-Islamic architecture and Hindu Muslim art. And beyond this, it epitomizes the United Nation’s objective of sustainable development as it accelerates in its development, chosen to be one of India’s first smart cities, while preserving its ancient heritage,” Kamboj further said. 

The nomination of Ahmedabad was supported by about 20 countries including Turkey, Lebanon, Tunisia, Portugal, Peru, Croatia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, South Korea, Croatia, Cuba and Poland.

Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani and BJP president Amit Shah hailed the announcement. 

“Delighted to know that UNESCO has declared Ahmedabad as World Heritage City. Proud moment for every Indian,” the BJP national president said in a tweet.

Ahmedabad’s journey towards attaining a world heritage tag began in 1984 when the first study for conserving heritage structures was instituted by Ford Foundation. In March 2011, Ahmedabad made it to UNESCO’s tentative list of world heritage sites. In January 2016, it was chosen over Delhi and Mumbai as India’s entry for the title. 

Ahmedabad has about 25 ASI (Archaeological Survey of India)-protected structures, hundreds of ‘pols’(housing clusters in the walled city areas of Ahmedabad) that capture the essence of community living, and numerous sites associated with Gandhi, who lived here from 1915 to 1930.

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