Buddhist Monuments at Sanchi

World Heritage

Heritage is our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and what we pass on to future generations. Our cultural and natural heritages are both irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration. 

World Heritage is the designation for places on Earth that are of outstanding universal value to humanity. Pyramids of Egypt, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, Galápagos Islands in Ecuador, the Taj Mahal in India, the Grand Canyon in the USA, or the Acropolis in Greece are examples of the 1000+ natural and cultural places inscribed on the UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites List to date. 

What makes the concept of World Heritage exceptional is its universal application. World Heritage sites belong to all the peoples of the world, irrespective of the territory on which they are located. 

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) seeks to encourage the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity. This is embodied in an international treaty called the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, adopted by UNESCO in 1972. 

Cultural heritage refers to monuments, groups of buildings and sites with historical, aesthetic, archaeological, scientific, ethnological or anthropological value. Natural heritage refers to outstanding physical, biological and geological formations, habitats of threatened species of animals and plants and areas with scientific, conservation or aesthetic value.

UNESCO's World Heritage mission is to

  • Encourage countries to sign the World Heritage Convention and to ensure the protection of their natural and cultural heritage; 
  • Encourage States Parties to the Convention to nominate sites within their national territory for inclusion on the World Heritage List; 
  • Encourage States Parties to establish management plans and set up reporting systems on the state of conservation of their World Heritage sites; 
  • Help States Parties safeguard World Heritage properties by providing technical assistance and professional training; 
  • Provide emergency assistance for World Heritage sites in immediate danger; 
  • Support States Parties’ public awareness-building activities for World Heritage conservation; 
  • Encourage participation of the local population in the preservation of their cultural and natural heritage; 
  • Encourage international cooperation in the conservation of our world’s cultural and natural heritage.

What is a World Heritage Site?

  • A World Heritage Site is a place on earth having a special cultural or physical significance and outstanding universal value to the humanity.
  • It may be a building, a city, a complex, a desert, a forest, an island, a lake, a monument, or a mountain.
  • They have been inscribed on the World Heritage List to be protected for future generations to appreciate and enjoy.

Who lists World Heritage Sites?

  • A world Heritage site is listed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)which is based in Paris, France.
  • The International World Heritage Programme administered by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee establishes the sites to be listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
  • The World Heritage Committeeis responsible for the implementation of the World Heritage Convention (The Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage or the World Heritage Convention), defines the use of the World Heritage Fund and allocates financial assistance upon requests from States Parties.
  • It is composed of 21 state parties which are elected by the General Assembly of States Parties for a four-year term.
  • Currently, India is a member of the World Heritage Committee.

How is a World Heritage Site selected?

  • The first step towards the listing is the nomination of a site by the respective government of a country.
  • The site should have an Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) for World Heritage nomination.
  • To determine the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) for World Heritage nomination, there are ten enlisted criteria.
  • The proposed nomination must satisfy at least one of these ten criteria.
  • The Nomination File is then evaluated by the International Council on Monuments and Sites and the World Conservation Union.
  • These bodies then make their recommendations to the World Heritage Committee.
  • The Committee meets once per year to determine whether or not to inscribe each nominated property on the World Heritage List and sometimes defers the decision to request more information from the country which nominated the site.

Ten criteria for determining Outstanding Universal Value (OUV)

  • represent a masterpiece of human creative genius;
  • exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a   cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design;
  • bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared;
  • be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological   ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history;
  • be an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture (or cultures), or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change;
  • be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance. (The Committee considers that this criterion should preferably be used in conjunction with
  • contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance;
  • be outstanding examples representing major stages of earth’s history, including the record of life, significant on-going geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features;
  • be outstanding examples representing significant on-going ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, freshwater, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals;
  • contain the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation

Benefits for countries and sites

The overarching benefit of ratifying the World Heritage Convention is that of belonging to an international community of appreciation and concern for universally significant properties that embody a world of outstanding examples of cultural diversity and natural wealth. The States Parties to the Convention, by joining hands to protect and cherish the world’s natural and cultural heritage, express a shared commitment to preserving our legacy for future generations.   

The prestige that comes from being a State Party to the Convention and having sites inscribed on the World Heritage List often serves as a catalyst to raising awareness for heritage preservation. 

A key benefit of ratification, particularly for developing countries, is access to the World Heritage Fund. Annually, about US$1 million is made available to assist States Parties in identifying, preserving and promoting World Heritage sites. Emergency assistance may also be made available for urgent action to repair damage caused by human-made or natural disasters. In the case of sites included on the List of World Heritage in Danger, the attention and the funds of both the national and the international community are focused on the conservation needs of these particularly threatened sites. 

Today, the World Heritage concept is so well understood that sites on the List are a magnet for international cooperation and may thus receive financial assistance for heritage conservation projects from a variety of sources.   

Sites inscribed on the World Heritage List also benefit from the elaboration and implementation of a comprehensive management plan that sets out adequate preservation measures and monitoring mechanisms. In support of these, experts offer technical training to the local site management team. 

Finally, the inscription of a site on the World Heritage List brings an increase in public awareness of the site and of its outstanding values, thus also increasing the tourist activities at the site. When these are well planned for and organized respecting sustainable tourism principles, they can bring important funds to the site and to the local economy.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India

  • The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is the nodal agency for forwarding any request for World Heritage status to any Indian site whether cultural or natural.
  • Based on the proposals received from the Central or State Government agencies as well as management Trusts, etc., and after their due scrutiny, the Government forwards the nomination dossiers to the World Heritage Center.
  • India now has 36 sites, including 28 cultural properties, seven natural sites and one mixed site, notified as World Heritage Sites.
  • The latest entries in 2016 were – (1) Nalanda University (2) Capitol Complex and (3) Khangchendzonga National Park (mixed site)

Source & Credit: www.arcgis.com – Abhishek Sindal

LIST OF UNESCO World Heritage sites in india

S.no Heritage Site
1 Cultural  Agra Fort (1983)
 Ajanta Caves (1983)
Archaeological Site of Nalanda Mahavihara (Nalanda University) (2016)
Buddhist Monuments at Sanchi
Capitol Complex (2016)
Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park (2004)
Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (formerly Victoria Terminus) (2004) 
Churches and Convents of Goa (1986)
Dholavira: a Harappan City (2021)
Elephanta Caves (1987) 
Ellora Caves (1983) 
Fatehpur Sikri (1986) 
Great Living Chola Temples (1987,2004)
Group of Monuments at Hampi (1986)
Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram (1984)
Group of Monuments at Pattadakal (1987)
Hill Forts of Rajasthan (2013) 
Historic City of Ahmadabad (2017)
Humayun’s Tomb (1993)
Jaipur City (2019)
Kakatiya Rudreshwara (Ramappa)  Temple (2021)
Khajuraho Group of Monuments (1986)
Mahabodhi Temple Complex at Bodh Gaya (2002)
Mountain Railways of India (1999,2005,2008)
Qutb Minar and its Monuments (1993)
Rani-ki-Vav (the Queen’s Stepwell) at Patan (2014)
Red Fort Complex (2007)
Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka (2003)
Sun Temple, Konark (1984)
Taj Mahal (1983)
The Jantar Mantar, Jaipur (2010)
Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensembles of Mumbai (2018)
2  Natural Great Himalayan National Park Conservation Area (2014)
Kaziranga National Park (1985)
Keoladeo National Park (1985)
Manas Wildlife Sanctuary (1985)
Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Parks (1988,2005)
Sundarbans National Park (1987)
Western Ghats (2012)
3  Mixed  Khangchendzonga National Park (2016)