How much difference does Unesco make?
Three new Indian sites have been added to the World Heritage list. Will
this improve their management?
By Darryl D’Monte
Three Indian sites were added to the World Heritage list by the United
Nations’ cultural branch, Unesco, this summer. They join 23 other sites
in India which have already been listed by the organisation. Indian
conservationists reacted enthusiastically to the news, proclaiming that
their country’s heritage is finally getting the recognition it deserves.
India certainly needs all the international help it can get. The
Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), which is run by central
government, is in charge of some 5,000 sites throughout the country;
there are dozens more managed by State governments and hundreds which
are simply unprotected. But how much difference will the Unesco
imprimatur make to the three new World Heritage Sites?
In theory, a site could be removed from the World Heritage list by
Unesco, but this has never yet happened. Unesco usually threatens to
place World Heritage sites that are being mismanaged on the list of
World Heritage in Danger: some 35 sites in India have been notified so
far. As a rule, Unesco only inspects sites after World Heritage listing
has been granted if there is a complaint. With 788 World Heritage sites
around the world, Unesco simply does not have the resources to monitor
them after listing.