DELHI/MUMBAI: The UNESCO awarded the World Heritage tag to art deco buildings and the Victorian Gothic architecture from Mumbai's Fort area. India will now rename the ensemble as the Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensembles of Mumbai, as recommended by the World Heritage Committee.
The decision to include the deco buildings and the Gothic architecture was taken at the 42nd session of the UNESCO's World Heritage Committee at Manama in Bahrain on Saturday. This makes Mumbai the second city after Ahmedabad to be inscribed on the World Heritage List. India now ranks second to China in terms of the highest number of heritage properties in the Asia and Pacific region. Globally, its rank is sixth in the world.
In the past five years, seven properties and sites of India have been inscribed on the UNESCO's World Heritage List. India now has 37 world heritage inscriptions. This includes 29 cultural, seven natural and one mixed sites. The cluster of Victorian and Art Deco buildings in Fort and Marine Drive heritage precincts was among 30 locations and landmarks that were being considered for the UNESCO's 'World Heritage' tag. Kenya's Lake Turkana, Nepal's Kathmandu Valley, Italy's wine-producing Prosecco Hills were among the other places eyeing the prestigious tag at the two-week long annual gathering of the committee that started a week back.
The ensemble boasts two architectural styles - the 19th century collection Victorian structures and the 20th century Art Deco buildings along the sea, conjoined by means of the historical open space of the Oval Maidan. The architectural ensemble represents the most remarkable collection of Victorian and Art Deco buildings in the world which forms the unique character of this urban setting. It consists of 94 buildings. The 19th century Victorian buildings form part of the larger fort precinct situated to the east of the Oval Maidan. These public buildings include the Old Secretariat (1857-74), University Library and Convention Hall (1874-78), the Bombay High Court (1878), the Public Works Department Office (1872), Watson's Hotel (1869), David Sasoon Library (1870) and the Elphinstone College (1888), among others.
The Art Deco styled buildings to the west of the Oval Maidan were raised in early 20th century on the newly reclaimed lands of Marine Drive and symbolised the shift in expression to represent the contemporary aspirations. The south Mumbai cluster is the city's third World Heritage Site after the Elephanta Caves and the Chhatrapati Shivaji Mahaji Terminus (CSMT). With this decision, Maharashtra has now become the state with the maximum number of world heritage sites in India.
The caves at Ajanta and Ellora are already on the World Heritage List. UNESCO's adviser, International Council of Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), that reported recommended the tag for the architecture district had said that two waves of urban development in the 19th and 20th centuries transformed Mumbai from a fortified trading outpost to the first city of India, which reflects in the architecture of this area. Union Minister of State for Culture Mahesh Sharma said in a statement the international recognition of the heritage precinct was a matter of great pride and would boost the local economy. Increased tourism will help create employment generation and increase the sale of local handicrafts and handloom items, he said.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis welcomed the decision. "This is a huge victory for Mumbai. We are very happy. Mumbai has always been a world city, now it's also a UNESCO heritage site," he said. Forty two sites from the country figures in the tentative list of the World Heritage. The Ministry of Culture will recommend one property every year for nomination to the UNESCO.