Ahmedabad’s Patel Stadium ‘At Risk’?

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    Two Indian sites have been included in the World Monuments Watch 2020, a watch list drawn up by the New York-based non-profit, World Monuments Fund (WMF). The Watch ‘is a biennial selection of at-risk cultural heritage sites that combine great historical significance with contemporary social impact’, and on the 29th of October, the WMF announced the World Monuments Watch 2020.

    This year’s list includes 25 sites from 22 countries, and the two from India are Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Stadium in Ahmedabad and the Historic Water Systems of the Deccan Plateau in Maharashtra and Karnataka.

    The World Monuments Fund has for the last 50 years been working to preserve many of the world’s irreplaceable architectural and cultural sites. The Watch programme has been running for the last 22 years, to bring awareness to cultural heritage at risk.

    The World Monuments Watch 2020 will see a grant of 1 million USD from American Express being given to a group of sites from the 25 on the list, for conservation initiatives. Some additional funds will also be available to all the sites through the Ford Foundation and Stavros Niarchos Foundation.

    Here’s a look at the two Indian sites on the Watch list.

    The Historic Water Systems of the Deccan Plateau includes sites as far apart as Daulatabad and Bijapur, 400 km from each other. These are on the Deccan plateau, where successive Islamic Sultanates created a network of reservoirs, tanks, channels and wells like the Neher-e-Ambari of Aurangabad in Maharashtra, and the Taj Bawdi of Bijapur in Karnataka, to manage their water resources. Unfortunately, many of these are no longer used or maintained.

    These water systems can play a vital role in meeting the global water crisis, and the WMF emphasises this in its press release by stating, “Revitalization of traditional water management systems and the recovery of local knowledge can help address the water crisis for contemporary communities.”

    The Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Stadium in Ahmedabad was built in the 1960s and was designed and executed by two of the most prominent individuals of the modernist phase of Indian architecture: Architect Charles Correa and Structural Engineer Mahendra Raj. The stadium has been described by the WMF as a representative of the experimental spirit and progressive ideals which characterised the Post-Independence, Nehruvian years of the country.

    The stadium is situated in the heart of Ahmedabad city but has suffered extensive deterioration due to a lack of maintenance and funding. The WMF has included it on the list, not only to highlight conservation challenges but also its significance as a public space in the rapidly changing urban landscape of Ahmedabad. It describes the stadium as “an architectural icon in need of repair and one thatcan continue to provide opportunities for recreation and access to public space for the residents of Ahmedabad”.

    These two sites represent two very distinct typologies of built heritage in India – i.e. the medieval Islamic heritage of the Deccan and the Post-Independence modern heritage of Ahmedabad. The challenges they face are also very dissimilar. The conservation and revival of these sites could bring substantial benefits, not only to the conservation movement but also the communities around them.

    Some of the other monuments on the Watch are the Notre-Dame de Paris in France, Sacred Valley of the Incas in Peru, Anarkali Bazaar in Pakistan and Bears Ears National Monument in the United States.

    Being on the World Monuments Watch helps bring much-needed attention to sites in need of conservation, and has helped save many sites that have been on the list in the past. Over the years, WMF has listed more than 836 sites in over 135 countries and contributed over 110 million USD towards their restoration and conservation. In addition, over 300 million USD has been allocated to these sites by other entities.

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