The feat makes Mumbai the second city in India after Ahmedabad to be inscribed on the World Heritage List.
Fourteen years after the idea was first mooted, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) finally declared the city’s Victorian and Art Deco Ensembles, straddling two heritage precincts of Fort and Marine Drive, a World Heritage Site.
TOI was the first to report on May 5, 2018 that Unesco’s technical adviser, the Paris-based International Council of Monuments and Sites (Icomos), had recommended the prestigious tag for the landmark south Mumbai enclave. Once Icomos gives its stamp of approval to a proposal, it is generally accepted by Unesco.
Lambah, who prepared the nomination dossier, said, “From 2004, when I first presented this idea at the Unesco conference on representation at Chandigarh, it’s been 14 long years to get all stakeholders, citizen groups and government on board to make this happen. This inscription acknowledges Mumbai’s position in the world as the finest collection of 19th and 20th century modernism; a city where heritage does not just include dead monuments but a living, breathing, dynamic urban centre with buildings in active use by citizens. This is the first case in India’s 37 world heritage sites where the nomination process was a citizen-driven initiative.”
The idea found resonance with local citizen groups: UDRI, Kala Ghoda Association, Oval Cooperage Residents Association, OVAL Trust, Nariman Point-Churchgate Citizens Association, Heritage Mile Association, Federation of Residents’ Trusts, Observer Research Foundation as well as the MMR Heritage Conservation Society. It was also endorsed by eminent Mumbaikars such as Amitabh Bachchan, Fadnavis and Shaina NC, who wrote to the Central government endorsing this nomination.
Lauding this effort as a unique partnership among citizens and government bodies in making this nomination successful, Shirin Bharucha and Nayana Kathpalia representing the various civic groups and NGOs said, “It recognizes the value of the unique Victorian Gothic and Art Deco architecture to the urban form, history and soul of a city.”