Towards a world heritage city
Ahmedabad kept its date with its 600-year-old history as the three-day International Conference on Asian World Heritage Cities kicked off with an inspired speech by Chief Minister Narendra Modi who also released a coffee-table book on Ahmedabad’s heritage . From what was said at the inaugural function, attended by numerous foreign delegates who belong to various heritage cities, it was evident that Ahmedabad is sure to be the first Indian city to get World Heritage City status from Unesco. Even Unesco’s director in New Delhi, Armoogum Parsuramen, who hails from Mauritius, was all praise for the immense heritage value of the city and the need to plough in funds for conservation. Dr Gautam Sengupta, the director-general of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), said Ahmedabad was clearly ahead of other Indian cities like Chandigarh and Varanasi which were also bidding for the Unesco recognition and praised the proactiveness of both the Gujarat government and the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) in this direction. ASI was also presented a document by AMC commissioner I P Gautam explaining why Ahmedabad should get the recognition. Dr Gautam, however, said the process was long drawn and would take at least 18 months from the point where a detailed presentation is made before Unesco. Modi stole the show as usual in an hour-long speech in Hindi, which the foreign delegates couldn’t understand, but had the audience in splits. The chief minister also spoke about his ‘Jal Mandir’ project where he has exhorted the entire administrative machinery in Gujarat to identity stepwells which are in a state of neglect. In just a few months, 800 such stepwells have been cleaned up across Gujarat. Modi also sought Unesco’s help to excavate the ancient city of Dwarka which is buried under the sea off Saurashtra.