The New York-based outfit, World Monuments Fund has put two of the Indian heritage sites – Historic Water Systems of the Deccan Plateau and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Stadium – in 2020 World Monuments Watch list. This year’s selection reflects key issues and themes, organizers point out, including the elevation of indigenous voices; historic and underrepresented sites; urbanization and development; and disaster recovery.
Unlike United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), World Monuments Fund is a private non-profit organization founded in 1965 by individuals concerned about the accelerating destruction of important artistic treasures throughout the world. World Monuments Fund has orchestrated over 600 projects in 90 countries. Today, with affiliate organizations established in Britain, India, Peru, Portugal, and Spain – World Monuments Fund sponsors an ongoing program for the conservation of cultural heritage worldwide.
“Inclusion of the Traditional Water Systems of the Deccan Plateau on the 2020 World Monuments Watch illustrates the potential for historic water systems to help address the water crisis for contemporary communities,” says WMF. Traditional water management systems depend on collective responsibility for their maintenance and upkeep. Silt, carried by water, accumulates gradually and its removal is constantly needed, while ventilation shafts and other outlets must be protected from encroachment that can contaminate the water supply. When collective systems fail, private and unregulated extraction takes their place, as is today the case in much of India. By contrast, traditional systems limit the supply of water to the natural rate at which it replenishes, making them sustainable in the long run.
Talking about Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Stadium WMF says “An architectural icon in need of repair can continue to provide opportunities for recreation of access to public space for the residents of Ahmedabad.” Designed in the 1960s by renowned architect Charles Correa and engineer Mahendra Raj, the stadium is part of a larger constellation of structures built in Ahmedabad by a generation of local and international architects who helped create a new architectural language in India. Those structures include the Sanskar Kendra Museum and Mill Owners’ Association Headquarters designed by Le Corbusier, the Indian Institute of Management designed by Louis Kahn, the Tagore Memorial Hall and the Amdavad ni Gufa art gallery designed by Balkrishna Doshi, and the Gujarat High Court Building designed by Bimal Patel. “This collection of buildings illustrates the cultural and economic importance of Ahmedabad following partition of the State of Bombay in the 1960s.”
In 2015, WMF had put Mughal Gardens in Agra in the danger list. Four years ago, it had embarked on a rigorous conservation project in partnership with the Archaeological Survey of India at two of Agra’s most celebrated gardens—Mehtab Bagh, and the Garden of the Tomb of I’timadud-Daulah—aiming to restore them to their authentic form, re-activate their water features, and enhance visitor experience.
It may be noted here that UNESCO too compiles a list World Heritage in Danger with the intention to increase international awareness of the threats and to encourage counteractive measures. In the past two of the Indian heritage sites had figured in the list of heritage site in danger – Group of Monuments at Hampi and Manas Wildlife Sanctuary in Assam.