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Konark might lose World Heritage site tag

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Odisha Sun Times Bureau

Konark, Nov 4:

Odisha’s only UNESCO’s World Heritage site, the famous Konark Sun temple might lose its place from the prestigious list from due to poor maintenance and encroachments, feel senior Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) officials.

Konark Temple

The state government’s apathetic attitude might cost the 13th century most famous Brahman sanctuaries its place among the world heritage sites, as its irons bars to prevent intruders and 150 makeshift shopkeepers in the front of the monument are an eyesore to its beauty.

The Archaeological Survey of India repeated letters to the Odisha government have not received any response by the government. The local administration is sitting silent while the state government is sleeping over the issue. Odisha is now set to lose its only world heritage site tag.

Looking at the beauty and grandeur of the gigantic chariot shaped Sun temple, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1985 had granted the status of a world heritage site to Konark. But, due to negligence and ill maintenance the site is slowly losing its natural architectural beauty.

The delicate carvings in the architecture are slowly disappearing; the architecture and sculptures carved in the Arka area are losing their beauty. ASI has been working on the improvement of the structure, to facilitate the conservation work; they have bound the structure with iron bars, while doing chemical and stone work.

This looks very ugly, the deteriorating scenic beauty of the tourist sight is one of the major reasons for Konark losing its heritage site. The encroachments by local people have also created an eye sore for the ancient cultural monument.

When questioned, A K Patil, Bhubaneswar zone ASI Superintendent said that, “Konark has lost its natural beauty due to encroachments and makeshift shopkeepers, we have repeatedly written to the government for help evict them and maintain the beauty of the monument but in vain. If it is not adhered to, no wonder Konark might lose its status.”

In 2005, ASI had made attempts to remove the small makeshift shopkeepers from the vicinity of the monument, but due to political pressure could not achieve much. From 2013 onwards, around 150 makeshift shopkeepers have been doing business in the front portion of the monument.

Some organisations and individuals have complained to the UNSCO on this issue.

“In 2005 when there was a crisis about the monument losing its tag the encroachers had been evicted, but from 2013 they have again started doing business in front of the monument and are polluting the vicinity of the World Heritage Site. Such a thing is not seen in any other heritage site in the world. If such a thing goes on for some time then it will be no surprise that we will lose the tag,” said Bhubaneswar ASI regional zone senior official.

As of July 2015, 1031 sites are listed as World Heritage Sites around the world: 802 cultural, 197 natural, and 32 mixed properties, in 163 states parties. According to the sites ranked by country, Italy is home to the greatest number of World Heritage Sites with 51 sites, followed by China (48), Spain (44), France(41), Germany (40), Mexico (33), and India (32).

Out of which, 25 are cultural, while 7 are natural sites. Agra, Jantar Mantar, Anjanta Ellora caves, is some of the heritage sites among which the Black Pagoda of Odisha is the only ancient architectural wonder to be part of the list.