Since 2010, four sites in J&K have made it to UNESCO’s “tentative list” to obtain the coveted World Heritage tag. But eight years on, the state government is yet to start the basic, mandatory process of preparing nomination files for these sites to be considered by the world heritage body, reports claimed.
According to a report published by Indian Express, J&K Culture Secretary Mohammad Saleem Shishgar said the government was “yet to ascertain who would write the nomination dossier for these heritage sites”. Asked about the status of the nominations — the process usually takes two years — Shishgar said the preparation “is not even in the discussion stage as yet”.
J&K does not have a single site or monument with the UNESCO inscription of a World Heritage Site. The four sites on the “tentative list” are: Mughal Gardens in Kashmir (made it to the tentative list in 2010); Neolithic Settlement of Burzahom (2014); desert landscape of Ladakh (2015); and an ancient monastery and stupa in Harwan, which is among the Silk Route sites in India (2010).
According to UNESCO’s procedure for inscription, once a site has been named in a country’s “tentative list” for consideration by the World Heritage Committee, “a State Party can plan when to present a nomination file”.
“The World Heritage Centre offers advice and assistance to the State Party in preparing this file, which needs to be as exhaustive as possible, making sure the necessary documentation and maps are included,” the rules state. The dossier of nomination, essentially, needs to establish the site’s “Outstanding Universal Value,” Indian Express reported.
J&K Minister for Public Works and Culture Naeem Akhtar said he was “not aware” of any dossier being prepared by the state.
The state provided legal protection to the Mughal Gardens — Nishat Bagh, Shalimar Bagh, Achabal Bagh, Chashma Shahi, Pari Mahal and Verinag — in 2010 with the J&K Heritage Conservation and Preservation Act, 2010. Officials say this legislative cover is essential to make the case for a UNESCO inscription, the report said.
Chapter 3 of this Act, provides for the constitution of an authority and an executive committee for “preparation, approval and sanction of heritage conservation and preservation plans” of the state government. But this authority is yet to be constituted, and the state has still not framed a culture policy, Indian Express reported.