Setu world heritage, requires heritage clearance

Mega projects like Setu require heritage clearance from Min. of Culture

The implementation of the proposed rules in letter and spirit should be proved by an immediate and formal declaration that Rama Setu is a monument of national importance and that UNESCO will be asked to declare it as world heritage.

The World Heritage List includes 851 properties forming part of the cultural and natural heritage which the World Heritage Committee considers as having outstanding universal value.

These include 660 cultural , 166 natural and 25 mixed properties in 141 States Parties. As of October 2006, 184 States Parties have ratified the World Heritage Convention. 

For the proposed rules to be implemented fairly, ASI should have archaeologists. Such archaeologists should also understand heritage and have the competence to recognize Rama Setu as heritage. Such archaeologists should also not become politicised under directions from people like Ambika Soni and submit affidavits to SC only to be withdrawn.

Since Tamilnadu Government has virtually recognized Rama Setu (Setubandhanam) as divyakshetram and exhorting millions of tourists to visit Rameshwaram (See Tamilnadu Tourism Corporation poster below), Govt. of India and Tamilnadu Government should scrap the Setusamudram project, disband the Baalu committee and declare in the Parliament that henceforth, Rama Setu shall be deemed to be a monument of national importance and a proposal will be sent to UNESCO to declare the monument as world heritage.


Advertisement poster by India Tourism

Rama Bhakti adored by Tamilnadu Government

Where the past comes alive…

This is the title of the poster published by Tamilnadu Government Tourism Corporation.

On this poster, with Rama and Lakshmana standing nearby, an episode is depicted as a painting showing Vanara carrying large boulders    to construct a bridge in the ocean.

Apart from this,

“…even now, these waters stand carrying the blessings of Rama’s lotus feet;… this is the spot where the Vanara Sena crossed the ocean to reach Sri Lanka to rescue Sita”

…so says, the Tamilnadu Government Tourism Corporation on this poster. These advertisement posters are depicted on the train carriages of Haridwar-Delhi Janashatabdi Express train.

In this, Tamilnadu Tourism Department is clear that none need entertain any doubts about the existence of Rama Setu. The pamphlet of the department states: “A particular attraction to be seen in this site is the floating stone called Setubandhana used to construct the bridge.”

On the one hand, Chief Minister says, ‘Rama Setu does NOT exist, Rama does NOT exist, all are imaginations’; on the other hand, his Tamilnadu Government, advertises and tries to earn revenue by advertising an episode from Rama’s life and peoples’ bhakti for Rama.

Whether the bhakta-s believe it or not, Chief Minister’s (Kalaijnar’s) Tamilnadu Government believes that eulogies to Rama will yield prosperity.

n       Information provided by M. Srinivasan, Chennai (Thuglak, 10 October 2007)


Blurb from the Tamilnadu Tourism Development Corporation poster and pamphlet inviting tourists to Rameshwaram:

The floating stone ‘Sethu bandanam’ used to build the sethu Bridge is worth seeing here.

Mega projects will soon need heritage clearance

Nidhi Sharma | New Delhi

New infrastructure projects, including Special Economic Zones (SEZs), railway lines and bridges, Metro, dams and highways, would soon need heritage clearances. Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is all set to introduce amendments to the existing rules that would make it mandatory for all Government agencies and private firms to conduct heritage impact assessments, similar to environment studies, before starting a project.

This would be done to ensure the new projects do not endanger heritage or existing protected and unprotected monuments. The ASI is calling this initiative “salvage heritage”. At present, there are no rules that protect heritage sites from damage done by new infrastructure projects. The ASI, which is reviewing its Ancient Monuments and Archeological Sites and Remains Rules 1959, has introduced an amendment to protect heritage sites and unprotected monuments.

Speaking to The Pioneer, ASI Director-General Anshu Vaish said, “We have decided to expand the ambit of rules and bring them in sync with the modern times. A lot of development is taking place within our cities and we are facing new challenges. In Delhi, for instance, the Metro network is expanding and we face new situations that the present rules cannot tackle. So we want civic agencies to first conduct studies to see if their project has an impact on any heritage site or monument.”

Now the new rules propose that a no-objection certificate would be required from ASI before the project is started. However, all projects would not need clearances. The new rules lay down specifics — like the size of the SEZ or proximity to a heritage site — for it to need a clearance. Under the present rules, there are no safeguards for unprotected monuments. The amendments to the rules lay down heavy penalties for damage to unprotected monuments also.

Culture ministry sources said that Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) work in south Delhi, with several unprotected heritage monuments, which has made ASI introduce this clause. According to sources, the penalties for damage to protected and unprotected monuments have been increased under the rules. The process for recovering penalties has also been made simpler. The present rules prescribe a maximum fine of Rs 5,000 or three months’ simple imprisonment or both if a monument is defaced or damaged. This fine has been increased from Rs 5,000 to Rs 50,000. Sources said that if a private firm or Government agency does not conduct proper studies or takes clearances before starting a project the fines could be as high as Rs 1 to 5-lakh.

A senior Culture Ministry official said, “We want to introduce preventive fines. They are so high because it should pinch the builder’s pocket if he does some wrong.” The new rules prescribe the same treatment for protected and unprotected monuments as well. There are 3,667 ASI protected monuments in India. However, there are several monuments that are unprotected. “They are unprotected does not mean that they hold no heritage value for India. This is why studies need to be conducted and clearances taken before a project is initiated,” said an official.

The new rules are also trying to take note of technology. The new rules do not address technological progress like mobile photography. ASI still charges Rs 25 for videofilming done inside monuments. “But there are advanced mobiles that are used for videofilming now. How does one stop that? So now under the new rules a fee would be charged only if complicated equipment like a tripod or some other filming gadgets are taken inside. This fee will also be increased to Rs 500,” said the official. The draft of amendments is ready and would now be sent to the Culture Ministry for Cabinet approval.

World heritage: definition To establish an international system of cooperation and assistance with a standpoint that it is important to protect cultural and natural heritage against the threat of damage and destruction and preserve them as world heritage of humanityHistory of the Treaty     (1)  Nov. 1972: adopted at the 17th General Conference of UNESCO     (2)  Dec. 1975: took effect (ratified by 20 State Parties)     (3)  Jun. 1992: The Japanese Diet approved of concluding the treaty. (the 125th nation to approve it)     (4)  Mar. 2004: 177 States Parties have ratified the Convention.Outline of the Treaty     (1)  Each State Party will acknowledge and protect cultural and natural heritage of universal value.     (2)  The World Heritage Committee (*1) organized in UNESCO will make a World Heritage List (hereafter referred to as “the List”) based on the nominations submitted by States Parties.     (3)  The World Heritage Committee will give necessary assistance to World Heritage sites inscribed on the List upon request of State Parties.     (4)  State Parties will make contributions of less than 1% of their share of expenses of UNESCO to the World Heritage Fund.Nomination and Registration to the List     (1)  State Parties will nominate sites within national territories for inclusion on the List by the closing date (Dec. 1 by 2000 and Feb. 2 as of 2002).     (2)  The nominated sites will be assessed by the NGOs concerned —— cultural heritage by ICOMOS (*2) and natural heritage by IUCN.     (3)  The decision concerning new entries on the List will be made at the World Heritage Committee held in June following the closing date.Tentative List of World Heritage      *   State Parties are encouraged to submit to the Committee a list of sites considered appropriate to be inscribed on the List.      *   This list is called a “tentative list”, consisting of the sites that State Parties are planning to nominate during the coming 5 – 10 years.      *   Tentative lists will be used to broadly study and compare the values of recommended sites.      *   As for cultural heritage, only those named on tentative lists can be included on the World Heritage List. *1 The World Heritage Committee:
The Committee is composed of approximately a dozen representative observers and experts who have been elected from the 21 State Parties. The Committee meets once a year and fulfills the following four roles:
(1) To register superior cultural and natural properties as World Heritage
(2) To coordinate with countries after registration and continue to monitor the state of conservation
(3) To conclude if certain properties are endangered and to inscribe them on the List of World Heritage in Danger
(4) To give assistance to the State Parties of the World Heritage Convention by effectively allocating financial aid from the World Heritage Fund
(The International Council on Monuments and Sites)
A council aimed at the protection of monuments and sites. Responsible for the investigation and evaluation of properties wishing to be listed as Cultural Heritage. The World Heritage makes the final decision as to weather a property’s application is accepted; however the local investigation and comments made by ICOMOS are extremely important.

What is world heritage?

Definition of World Heritage Source: Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention, II.A Cultural and Natural Heritage Cultural and natural heritage are defined in Articles 1 and 2 of the World Heritage Convention.

Article 1

For the purposes of this Convention, the following shall be considered as “cultural heritage”; – monuments: architectural works, works of monumental sculpture and painting, elements or structures of an archaeological nature, inscriptions, cave dwellings and combinations of features, which are of outstanding universal value from the point of view of history, art or science;

groups of buildings: groups of separate or connected buildings which, because of their architecture, their homogeneity or their place in the landscape, are of outstanding universal value from the point of view of history, art or science;

sites: works of man or the combined works of nature and of man, and areas including archaeological sites which are of outstanding universal value from the historical, aesthetic, ethnological or anthropological points of view.

Article 2

For the purposes of this Convention, the following shall be considered as “natural heritage”: – natural features consisting of physical and biological formations or groups of such formations, which are of outstanding universal value from the aesthetic or scientific point of view;
geological and physiographical formations and precisely delineated areas which constitute the habitat of threatened species of animals and plants of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation;

natural sites or precisely delineated natural areas of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science, conservation or natural beauty.

Mixed Cultural and Natural Heritage

Properties shall be considered as “mixed cultural and natural heritage” if they satisfy a part or the whole of the definitions of both cultural and natural heritage laid out in Articles 1 and 2 of the Convention.

Cultural Landscapes

Cultural landscapes are cultural properties and represent the “combined works of nature and of man” designated in Article 1 of the Convention. They are illustrative of the evolution of human society and settlement over time, under the influence of the physical constraints and/or opportunities presented by their natural environment and of successive social, economic and cultural forces, both external and internal.

Movable Heritage

Nominations of immovable heritage which are likely to become movable will not be considered.

Outstanding Universal Value

Outstanding universal value means cultural and/or natural significance which is so exceptional as to transcend national boundaries and to be of common importance for present and future generations of all humanity. As such, the permanent protection of this heritage is of the highest importance to theinternational community as a whole.

The Committee defines the criteria for the inscription of properties on the World Heritage List. States Parties are invited to submit nominations of properties of cultural and/or natural value considered to be of “outstanding universal value” for inscription on the World Heritage List.

At the time of inscription of a property on the World Heritage List, the Committee adopts a Statement of Outstanding Universal Value (see paragraph 154) which will be the key reference for the future effective protection and management of the property. The Convention is not intended to ensure the protection of all properties of great interest, importance or value, but only for a select list of the most outstanding of these from an international viewpoint. It is not to be assumed that a property of national and/or regional importance will automatically be inscribed on the World Heritage List.

Nominations presented to the Committee shall demonstrate the full commitment of the State Party to preserve the heritage concerned, within its means. Such commitment shall take the Operational Guidelines for the form of appropriate policy, legal, scientific, technical, administrative and financial measures adopted and proposed to protect the property and its outstanding universal value.


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