The Government of India has proposed to nominate the name of Assam's river-island, Majuli, for inclusion in the ‘cultural landscape' category of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) World Heritage list. Considered the largest freshwater river-island in the world, Majuli is located in the middle of the mighty Brahmaputra.

Conservation architect G.S.V. Suryanarayana Murthy has been selected by the Archaeological Survey of India as the man to prepare the nomination dossier. Mr. Murthy's consultancy firm M/S Kshetra is also associated with the management plan peer review document for the nomination of Hyderabad's three Qutb Shahi monuments for the Unesco World Heritage award.

The Majuli dossier will be ready by October, to be submitted to the Unesco in February 2012. Majuli was shortlisted in the World Heritage Site (WHS) ‘Tentative List' at the World Heritage Committee session at Suzhou in China. Subsequently, a comprehensive nomination dossier was submitted in 2006, followed by additional information in 2008.

The revised dossier moves a step closer to securing WHS status for Majuli, incorporating all referred points of past conventions.

“The International Council on Monuments and Sites (Icomos) mission is expected to come in October to evaluate the Majuli cultural landscape,” said Mr. Murthy.

The island situated in Jorhat district of northern Assam is about 80 km wide and about 10-15 km long, with a total area of 875 sq.km in midstream of the delta system.

A mixed community of various ethno-cultural groups, the Majulians have migrated to the island over centuries, bringing along their traditions and skills. These communities are united by the social institution of Sattra, which was introduced by the Vaishnava revivalist, saint Sankardeva, in the 16th century.

The island faces a greater threat from flood and erosion by the Brahmaputra than from external and modern influences. Moreover, the ecosystem and age-old cultural and social system are under pressure following the displacement of the local people and an increase in the population.

“All of this underscores the need for the protection of the region and its heritage components,” Mr. Murthy said.