INTACH to showcase these structures to bag World Heritage City tag

Owners of havelis in Shahjahanabad in the Walled City of Delhi will soon be able to avail themselves of loans to convert their premises into hotels or tourist lodges. This is part of a two-pronged strategy being adopted by the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) to restore the area to its pristine glory.

Having prepared a voluminous dossier to showcase Delhi as a world heritage city, INTACH is now in the process of making Shahjahanabad, which was the seat of power of the Mughals, visually appealing so as to buttress the heritage value of the place.

In a bid to persuade the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation to accord Delhi the title of world heritage city, the non-government organisation wants to showcase Shahjahanabad in a renovated light replete with history.

As part of its strategy to preserve the erstwhile imperial city, which has havelis belonging to families who belonged to the royal court of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, INTACH will first work on cleaning the streets from Chawri Bazar to Ajmeri Gate. Removal of garbage, solving the drainage problems, installation of proper sign boards and sprucing up the streets has been chalked out. Secondly, INTACH will negotiate with owners of havelis to convert them into tourist lodges. “We will first commence work at the peripheral level. Once the streets are beautified and the dangling electricity wires, which mar the façade of these havelis, are removed we would be in a better position to start negotiations with owners of about 700 havelis at Shahjahanabad. Our job is to make all these havelis identifiable,” said a senior official at INTACH. The European model of sanitising Shahjahanabad and making the area look like a veritable museum would not be adopted.

“In the name of conservation, we cannot empty Shahjahanabad. But we certainly want more order to be brought in. The idea is recognition of Shahjahanabad as a living heritage city. Rickshaws, e-rickshaws, street vendors and biryani and kebab sellers would still be there but we can make the place a bit more clean by building public conveniences and increasing the heritage value of streets.”

The NGO will also act as a facilitator between the proprietors of havelis and banks.

“The idea is to make owners go to the banks to get loans for renovating their havelis. The havelis would not be spoiled because we would have limited number of guests from India and abroad. This move is intended to give a boost to tourism. Normally, tourists come to Delhi for a day and then head to Agra or Jaipur. If the havelis are beautified and made visitor-friendly then tourists would like to stay for a few days to enjoy the cultural heritage of this extraordinary place,” said the official.

This move is aimed at tapping backpackers and not the high-end tourists who live in luxurious resorts or five-star hotels.

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