Ahmedabad, the 606-year-old walled city in Gujarat has been declared as a World Heritage City (WHC). Ahmedabad now holds the esteemed position of becoming India’s first World Heritage City. Following a meeting in Krakwo, Poland, the announcement was made by UNESCO on Twitter on Saturday, 8 July, 2017.
Ruchira Kamboj, India’s permanent representative to UNESCO, tweeted saying, “Thrilled to announce! Ahmedabad has just been declared India’s first #WorldHeritage city by @UNESCO.”
Members of the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO had visited Ahmedabad in June but had deferred the nomination of Ahmedabad as a WHC as they were not satisfied with the official documents pertaining to the “outstanding universal values” for Ahmedabad’s walled city referring to the city’s urban fabric, spaces, and buildings.
Spread over 5.43 sq km, the walled city of Ahmedabad was founded by emperor Ahmed Shah over 600 years ago. Mahatma Gandhi began his struggle for freedom for India from the British Raj in Ahmedabad. With neighbourhoods having clusters of centuries-old residences, the city is certainly a living heritage and thus was preferred over Mumbai and Delhi during the nomination process in 2016.
Rabindra Vasavada, a retired professor of Cept University, along with his team took six years and put together the dossier for the walled city for the nomination.
Ruchira Kamboj, during Ahmedabad’s inscription, said, “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.”
With the announcement made, Debashish Nayak, director of the Centre for Heritage Management at Ahmedabad University, who had launched the first heritage walk in the walled city, was confident that the citizens of the city would now work harder towards preserving the rich heritage of the city in the form of architecture as well as culture. He credited the citizens for achieving the title of WHC and believed that they would stand by the title of being a national example with zeal.
Municipal Commissioner of Ahmedabad Mukesh Kumar said, “It started as a small step in 1996 when we started the heritage cell. Since then we have people dedicated to heritage management. We will now have to ensure that we perfectly maintain the 2,600 odd heritage sites in the city.”
According to architect and conservation specialist Rajdeep Routh, Ahmedabad and its citizens now have to work harder in maintaining the title of WHC, and should not take things for granted while striving towards setting an example for the rest of the country as professionals, citizens and stakeholders. He also expects that this title will result in a sharp rise in property prices.
Plans For the Future
Ahmedabad has been organising a daily Heritage Walk from the early 19th century Swaminarayan temple in Kalupur to the famous 15th century Jama Masjid. Popularly known as ‘Mandir to Masjid’ the route encompasses 20 main spots besides numerous areas and aspects of the old city. The title of WHC will certainly see a boom in the tourism industry in the near future and the following steps are being taken by the civic authorities to raise Ahmedabad on par with the established global standards and promote tourism in Gujarat internationally:
- Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation has started work on devising an action plan for the city and plans to demarcate certain areas in the city, as well as finding a permanent solution to the traffic congestion that the city faces.
- CM Vijay Rupani also announced a heritage festival from August 1 -15, 2017.
- The civic body is designing a detailed heritage route map, signboards with site details, signposts for easy navigation by tourists.
- The annual budget for maintenance is also going to be revamped.
- A bus service that will connect almost all the 54 heritage sites listed in the UNESCO declaration is also on the cards.
- MICAVaani, MICA’s student- run community radio station has recorded audio guides for 44 heritage sites in Ahmedabad which will help tourists understand the rich heritage of Ahmedabad better.