J&K Government has failed to propose even a single site as Heritage

While 29 heritage sites in India have already made it to the World Heritage List, J&K government has failed to propose even a single site to the Central Government, leave alone approaching the UNESCO. With the UNESCO's World Heritage Centre offering financial assistance worth thousands of dollars to states to help them protect cultural and natural heritage and bring places of outstanding universal value on the World Heritage Sites List, the Jammu and Kashmir Government is, ironically, still to learn about the basics of the multi-crore funding projects.

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$4 million annually to the Government of India

Alchi Monastery According to official documents, copies of which are with Greater Kashmir, the World Heritage Fund provides about $4 million annually to the Government of India – a key party – as international assistance. "The World Heritage Center allocates funds according to the urgency of requests with priority to the most threatened sites," the documents state.

Officials said even though the Central Government has been receiving adequate assistance from the international body for maintenance of its natural and cultural heritage sites, the J&K is still to make any headway on seeking the financial assistance.

"J&K is an important place where funds are required to be utilized for upkeep of natural and cultural heritage sties which have been vandalized over the years. But the state government is not taking up the matter with the central government. This lethargy is costing state millions of rupees annually."

Hemis Monastery Leh Ladakh
Hemis Monastery Leh Ladakh

Apply for the financial assistance

The State Government could, in its own capacity, apply for the financial assistance for maintenance of the state's heritage sites. "Every year the WHC offers applications for the financial grant of three kinds: emergency assistance, preparatory and conservation and management assistance for heritage conservation. What the states need to do is just apply for the grant which J&K government has so far failed to do."

Interestingly, no heritage (both natural and cultural) place in J&K has made it to the World Heritage List so far even through the state has the places with outstanding universal value. "The World Heritage Center makes it clear that those sites which have an outstanding universal value are fit to be included in the list. But it is extremely unlikely that the international body would make a request to the GoI or J&K for that. Authorities at Center and State have to do it themselves," the officials said.

However, there are some prerequisites for a place to be included in the World Heritage List: "a place should contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance."

Convener, Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) Kashmir Chapter, Muhammad Salem Beg said some sites have been rolled in the tentative list of World Heritage List. "Two monasteries in Ladakh namely Hemis and Alchi have figured in the tentative list of the international organization. After a site figures in tentative list it later becomes a formal nomination. And then the organization could send funds for the preservation of these sites," he said.

Beg said as of now Valley's six Mughal Gardens were on the tentative list and in 2010 proposal was mooted for their formal nomination in the World Heritage List.

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