India’s archaeological site of Nalanda Mahavihara has been approved by the World Heritage Committee to be added to the World Heritage List.
According to sources, it took an “all-out effort” from the Centre and the Bihar government to convince the jury to pick the archaeological site of Nalanda Mahavihara as the International Council of Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) had pointed to “weakness” in the over 200-page nomination dossier.
The committee on Sunday agreed to put 12 new sites on the World Heritage List before ending its 40th session in Turkey’s Istanbul city.
With nine others already approved on Friday, the session has placed a total of 21 out of 27 nominations for this year on the prestigious list, a news agency reported.
With the 21 newly added — 12 cultural sites, six natural and three mixed ones, the heritage list has now 1,052 sites in 165 countries.
The state of conservation of 155 properties was examined as well during the session, with five in Libya inscribed on the List of World Heritage in ‘Danger’, along with one in Uzbekistan and another in Mali.
Meanwhile, one site in Georgia was removed from the list of endangered sites, while the site of Nan Madol or the Ceremonial Centre of Eastern Micronesia, was simultaneously inscribed on the World Heritage List and on the List in Danger.
Other sites announced on Friday include China’s Zuojiang Huashan rock art cultural landscape and Iran’s ancient aqueducts known as Qanat. A transboundary site located in Bosnia, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia, and heritage sites in Greece, Spain and Gibraltar were also in the list.
The 40th session started on July 10 and was cut short by four days due to the outbreak of a coup attempt in Turkey on Friday night.
“The ICOMOS, in its recommendations, had asked India to deepen the study of the nominated property in order to better articulate the attributes of its potential significance and even suggested to defer the bid,” the sources said.
It had also recommended the nomenclature of the nomination to be “changed from ‘Excavated Remains of Nalanda Mahavihara’ to the ‘Archaeological Site of Nalanda Mahavihara’,” the sources said.
In August 2015, an expert from the ICOMOS had visited the ruins of the ancient university to evaluate India’s bid and a Paris-based NGO had offered “suggestions” on the dossier prepared under the supervision of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), a few months ahead of the Istanbul meet.
But the Archaeological Survey of India asserted that it was “confident that Nalanda would earn the UNESCO tag”.
“We were confident of achieving it from day one. We were confident that our bid was strong and our dossier made our case. We were not worried about what the ICOMOS had suggested,” ASI Director General Rakesh Tewari said.
“We had all details in our dossier that exhibited the Outstanding Universal Value of the ancient site and we also had made photographic documents and a film on it, especially for the bid,” he said. Tewari said India’s bid was supported by over 16 countries and India’s Permanent Representative to the UNESCO in Paris, Ruchira Kamboj, also made a strong case which helped India clinch the spot.
“Vietnam initiated it and countries like Indonesia, Jamaica and the Philippines supported it,” he said.
The sources said a top official from Bihar government also visited Paris and added strength to India’s case.
The ancient seat of learning is said to be one of the world’s oldest universities. Nalanda Mahavihara’s construction began in 6th century AD and it flourished under the Gupta Empire.
The heritage committee decided to discuss the unfinished UNESCO items on the agenda at another meeting slated to be held in Paris later.
The 41st session is slated for July 2017 in Krakow, Poland.
The heritage committee was formed in 1977 to enforce the World Heritage Convention and manage the heritage list created on the basis of the convention.