Renewed Demand For Heritage Tag For Agra
Agra: Renewed demands have been made for granting heritage status to Agra, which is home to three World Heritage monuments - the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri - and several other historical structures. This will protect and conserve historical buildings, old havelis, structures, water bodies, forests and even the oriental markets in the old city, experts say.
The Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society has demanded heritage city status for the city to help conservational efforts and streamline civic amenities for tourists, the Agra Vikas Foundation has sent memorandums to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to demand shifting of the army personnel occupying a greater part of the historical fort.
Demands have regularly been made by conservationists and local tourism organisations, but the union government "has not shown any interest" in pursuing the issue to its logical end, alleges Surendra Sharma, president of the Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society.
In 2007, the union tourism ministry told the Supreme Court that Agra could not be granted heritage city status because it lacked basic infrastructure, and sought time to develop amenities. But till date, the city does not have regular air connectivity, streamlined roads, adequate security arrangements for visitors and other related facilities.
Travel writers like Lucy Peck have suggested starting Heritage Walks through the interiors of the city to acquaint the foreign visitors with the live heritage, the life and vocations of the locals.
Several international bodies including the UNESCO have supported projects to restore the old glory of the Taj city.
A World Bank team recently visited several sites and interacted with officials to explore how the city's heritage could be promoted and preserved. A few projects have been short-listed.
"A city so rich in culture and architecture, where every street has a historical building needs to be recognised as a heritage city and the union ministry should draw up plans to remove encroachments around tourist sites," says conservationist Shravan Kumar Singh.