Rani-ki-Vav & Himalayan Park nominated for heritage status

India has nominated Rani-ki-Vav, a 11th-century step well located in Patan, Gujarat, and the Great Himalayan National Park in Himachal Pradesh as candidates for UNESCO’s World Heritage Site status this year. The World Heritage Committee, which will convene in Doha, Qatar, in June, will review the nomination and take a final decision.

Rani-ki-Vav, one of the finest examples of step wells in Gujarat, was constructed by Queen Udayamati of the Solanki Dynasty. This subterranean structure with a series of steps, broad landings, pavilions and sculpted walls, provides access to water in a deep well. This is a protected monument under the Archaeological Survey of India. Of the original seven storeys, five exist and only half of the more than 800 pieces of fine sculpture survive.

The Great Himalayan National Park is a natural site spread over an area of 754 square kilometres. It is located on the western part of the Himalayan Mountains in Kullu district of Himachal Pradesh, and is known for its biodiversity. The park has more than 25 forest types, 800 kinds of plants and is home to more than 180 bird species.

Conferring the World Heritage status is a three-step process. Countries first create an inventory of potential monuments and natural sites and include them in the Tentative List. From this, they select a few sites and nominate them for final inscription, every year. UNESCO appoints advisory committees to evaluate the nominations.

As early as 1998, the Indian government had proposed Rani-ki-Vav as a potential candidate for the World Heritage status and included it in the tentative list. However, it did not significantly pursue the case after that.

It was not the same with the Himalayan national park. This site, included in the tentative list in 2009, was submitted for UNESCO’s consideration last year. But the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which evaluated it for UNESCO, did not recommend the park for World Heritage status. It appears that the government has incorporated the suggestions made by IUCN and resubmitted the nomination.