Ahmedabad, the 606 year old walled city of Ahmedabad founded by emperor Ahmed Shah, has been conferred with India’s first World Heritage City.
On Saturday, the World Heritage Committee (WHC) of UNESCO made this announcement on Twitter after a meeting at Krakwo, Poland. Ruchira Kamboj, India’s permanent representative to UNESCO, tweeted, “Thrilled to announce! Ahmedabad has just been declared India’s first #WorldHeritage city by @UNESCO.”
On the occasion of Ahmedabad’s inscription, she 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.”
The walled city of Ahmedabad, sprawling over an area of 5.43sq. km, was chosen over Mumbai and Delhi during the nominations held last year. The city’s living heritage is reflected in the 600 odd “pols” or neighborhoods which have been serving as residences for many centuries.
Several countries like Turkey, Lebanon, Cuba and Poland gave their wholehearted approval to Ahmedabad’s nomination. Debashish Nayak, director of the Centre for Heritage Management at Ahmedabad University, who is also credited with having launched the first heritage walk in the walled city, had this to say,” “The entire credit for this goes to the citizens of the city.
It took us 20 years, and now I think the work has just started. We have become a national example and we have to make sure we stand by it. The government will also benefit from this and the old city will get better. People will now show interest in preserving their properties in the old city.”
Mukesh Kumar, Municipal Commissioner of Ahmedabad added, “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”.
Members of the WHC visited Ahmedabad earlier in June this year and informed the Central government that it had decided to delay the nomination of Ahmedabad as a World Heritage City. The WHC, in a detailed note had stated that it found the documentation related to the “outstanding universal values” for Ahmedabad’s walled city, referring to the city’s urban fabric, spaces and buildings, to be rather unsatisfactory.
Welcoming the decision, architect and conservation specialist Rajdeep Routh said: “We have to make sure that we do not take this tag for granted. We have to set an example for the rest of the country as professionals, citizens and stakeholders. This status would also mean a sharp rise in property prices in the old city. I have observed the rise in price in the last five years, but now it will start shooting up.”
Jigna Desai, assistant professor at Cept University, said the credit for Ahmedabad being declared as a World Heritage City goes to Rabindra Vasavada, a retired professor of Cept University.
He added that it was Jigna Desai, who, along with his team, took six years to compile the dossier for the walled city. Rajiv Patel, a builder-turned-conservationist, who is credited with having restored three havelis in the walled city, said, “This will give a boost to tourism. All the missing policies will fall in place to ensure that properties are restored and taken care of… We will have demarked areas in the city and problems like traffic will have to be resolved.”