The unexpected delay of a month in the visit of experts from UNESCO’s International Council of Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) for a final inspection of the Qutb Shahi heritage- Golconda, Charminar and Qutb Shahi tombs - for its inscription in the World Heritage list for 2013 hasn’t made much of a difference to the plans of the State Archeology Department and the Archeological Survey of India (ASI).
Major works relating to the conservation of monuments and removal of encroachments remain pending. But officials continue to be optimistic, bordering on the verge of being smug. “ICOMOS has a most encouraging policy of providing extra time considering major conservation needs once they are happy with the works being done by us. They do not reject proposals straight away,” pointed out a highly-placed ASI official on condition of anonymity.
Expressing confidence in the preparations ahead of the experts’ panel visit on Oct 31, officials at both the ASI and the State Archeology Department claimed that they were well prepared. “We are well prepared and the major pending conservation works cannot be taken up in a month’s time. We had no plans for a complete makeover of the monuments. We have planned to only ensure they are protected and maintained in a good shape,” explained Dr Krishnaiah, superintending archaeologist, ASI.
Asked about the graffiti and patchworks on the walls of Charminar, he replied that the ASI would be starting the works by March next year after funds for major conservation works were allotted. According to him, the ASI has attended to all the minor observations made by the three-member sub-committee formed by ICOMOS and the Union Ministry of Culture, who visited the city in January this year. “The State government would be doing what it can to remove encroachments, develop pedestrian area near the Charminar and undertake other works but this is a long process,” he added.
The State Archeology Department, which is the custodian of the Qutb Shahi tombs, said it had removed all the modern cement constructions, pipelines, cables and vegetation while repairing pathways and improving fencing at the seven tombs. However, laying of lawn in the very Qutb Shahi style may take a few more months as the department is yet to sign an MOU with the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) which has come forward to undertake the works.
The officials are also unhappy with the city beautification works taken up ahead of the recently concluded biodiversity conference. The works were mostly done in Hitec City and other areas. The Old City was ignored and so were the monuments running for the world heritage tag, they said. “The city beautification works done for CoP-11 will impress the experts but they will be concerned only about the state of the monuments. Even the CoP-11 works are incomplete and Old City has not achieved much,” said Dr R Krishnaiah, adding that the government should have considered the development of approach roads, illumination, lighting, etc near the Golconda Fort. But Dr GV Ramakrishna Rao, director of State Archeology, felt the city beautification might help. “Though most of the works undertaken for CoP-11 are still incomplete, it was only because of the biodiversity conference that works relating to development of roads were done at a brisk pace,” he said.
The team of ICOMOS experts were expected to visit the city in September but they had to defer their visit due to passport and visa related issues of one of the members. Officials said the team of experts is expected to arrive on Oct 31.
They would visit Golconda and Qutb Shahi tombs on November 1 and Charminar the next morning following which they would hold a meeting with all the stakeholders. The team is also expected to visit Chowmahalla Palace, which has already made it to the list of UNESCO’s Asia-Pacific Merit award for cultural heritage conservation.