Just as the applause died down on Bidar’s inclusion in the World Monument Watch 2014 list, the government faces several challenges in grooming the city into a global tourist destination.
In a letter, the World Monument Fund has clarified that the announcement does not guarantee funding from the New York-based NGO. It has, however, said that it would create access to the services of professionals trained in conservation.
This means that the government will have to fund conservation of monuments and provide amenities to international travellers that the announcement is expected to bring.
The first demand would be to generate culturally relevant information useful to the lay tourist. “We need articles that hook curious visitors to websites and draw them to Bidar. There is a scarcity of such literature in English, even less on the Internet,” says Abdul Samad Bharati, historian and author of the Urdu book, Bidar Ke Asare Kadima (historical monuments of Bidar).
The second would be user-friendly information about amenities available to visitors. “There is no guide book that includes how to reach, where to stay and what to eat in Bidar. As the government cannot venture into publishing of such books, it should support efforts by private agencies or NGOs,” says Shivakumar Uppe, professor of history in the Government First Grade College.
The important challenge is to create more of such amenities, especially those aimed at the international traveller, he said.
The problems are many. Bidar has no tourism department office, and the government has not appointed an officer. There are 60 monuments in the city and its surrounding areas but no guides to take visitors around.
“Progress can be achieved only when residents work with the government,” says Sanjayant Kumar, a member of INTACH’s Indore chapter. He has suggested raising funds from international agencies and philanthropists by setting up a district heritage trust dedicated to preservation and tourism promotion.
“Bidar has great potential for adventure tourism. The undulated land and evergreen forests surrounding the city can support biking, horse racing and trekking. The moat and Karez tunnels could be included in activities such as nature walks or cave exploration,” Mr. Kumar said. He also suggested that officials of border districts in Karnataka, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh work together to promote tourism circuits.
“Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has promised all support for preservation of monuments and tourism promotion,” says Deputy Commissioner P.C. Jaffer. “We will take steps such as training of guidelines, synchronising the efforts of tour operators, hotels and transport agencies and promoting Bidar in neighbouring States,” he said.
The government is constructing two interpretation centres and setting up three heritage walks. It is promoting the WMW announcement through social media, Dr. Jaffer said.
“Adaptive reuse of monuments and their neighbourhoods is seen as the most sustainable way of conserving them,” feels Shashikant Malli, Karnataka Urban Infrastructure Development Finance Corporation engineer in charge of conservation. “That is why we have requested consultants of Indian Heritage Cities Network to suggest ways in which development initiatives can be continued without damaging the monuments,” he said.
Bidar is among the 67 sites in 41 countries seeking attention from stakeholders. The recent announcement mentions the “historic city of Bidar”, including all its monuments.