NEW DELHI, March 20 - In what could mean a serious setback to Assam Government’s initiative to have Majuli river island declared as a UNESCO Cultural Heritage Site, the Union Tourism and Culture Ministry has said that there is no concept of declaring any island as a Heritage Site.In a Lok Sabha reply to a question by Ramen Deka, Union Minister of State for Culture and Tourism, Dr Mahesh Sharma said that there is no concept of declaring any island as a Heritage Site under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958.
The minister’s response came at a time when the State Government led by Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal had announced its commitment to have Majuli island being declared as a World Heritage Site.
As reported by this newspaper, the UNESCO Country Office in New Delhi has taken up the issue of World Heritage Site (WHS) status for the Majuli island and it is eager to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Assam Government to prepare a flawless nomination dossier.
The Country Office of the UN agency has decided to engage UNESCO technical experts to examine the draft dossier for the island before giving it a final shape.
The dossiers for the WHS nomination were submitted to the World Heritage Centre (WHC) of the UNESCO on February 3. It will be scrutinised in June by the WHC.
Since 2013, the UNESCO Country Office has so far made three communications with the State Government for signing an MoU for preparing the nomination dossier of Majuli.
In 2012, the nomination dossier of the Majuli river island was rejected by the WHC on the ground of “incompleteness”. Since then no attempt was made by any of the authorities concerned from India to resubmit the dossier with the required modifications.
The move to wrest the WHS status for the river island was initiated by the NGO Majuli Island Protection and Development Council in 1998-99. Since then three nomination dossiers for the island were submitted to the WHC.