1.         Mountain Railways of India (India) (C 944ter)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1999

Criteria  (ii)(iv)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger  N/A

Previous Committee Decisions  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/944/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 2001-2004)
Total amount approved: USD 58,000
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/944/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

Total amount provided: USD 484,357 via a self-benefiting Funds-in-Trust project by the Indian Railways, set up at the UNESCO Office in New Delhi for the establishment of the Comprehensive Conservation and Management Framework

Previous monitoring missions

N/A

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Factors identified at the time of inscription of the property:

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/944/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2019

Following the submission of information by third parties, the World Heritage Centre sent four letters to the State Party (26 June 2017, 11 July 2017, 18 July 2018 and 14 February 2019) concerning the deteriorating state of conservation of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR), which is part of the World Heritage property of Mountain Railways of India. The World Heritage Centre requested the State Party to verify the information received regarding: i) lack of monitoring and general maintenance; ii) serious encroachment by illegal construction; and iii) dumping of waste along the tracks.  At the time of writing this report, the State Party has not responded to any of the letters.

The UNESCO Office in New Delhi carried out a mission to Darjeeling and Kolkata (19–29 May 2018) and made the following observations:

At the time of inscription, in 1999, most of the 88-kilometre route of the DHR passed through either forest or tea garden landscapes. Currently, however, much of the DHR runs between illegally constructed houses and shops, and a lot of this encroachment is on a 20-metre corridor owned by the Northern Frontier Railway Zone and the Ministry of Road Transport. Illegal housing is so close to the railway in places that there is little or no space between units and the railway.

Additionally, DHR steam locomotives use low-grade coal instead of steam coal produced for steam locomotives, which generates ash and smoke pollution and has a negative impact on the locomotive engines.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM

The mission report from the UNESCO Office in New Delhi and third-party information sent to the World Heritage Centre describe significant loss of original architectural elements from railway buildings and cumulative wear and tear on the locomotives and rolling stock of the railway since inscription. This is coupled with the impact of encroachment by illegal housing and commercial development, which has significantly altered the character of the railway corridor and its surrounding landscape and threatens the OUV of the property and its character.

The issues stem from the absence of a management system with appropriate focus on priorities for protection, maintenance and conservation and the capacity to implement these. There is also a general lack of understanding of the unique management needs of narrow-gauge heritage steam railways. In this regard, lack of suitably trained staff to operate the railway constitutes an important aggravating factor.

There is an urgent need to clarify the boundaries of the property and to establish a buffer zone in order to ensure its protection, to define priorities for management and to maintain the railways’ relationship with the landscapes that each one helped to create.

It is regrettable that, between 2017 and 2019, the State Party has not responded to World Heritage Centre’s repeated requests for information regarding the lack of monitoring and general maintenance, serious encroachment by illegal construction and waste dumping along the tracks of the property. In view of these pressing issues, the Indian Railways’ initiative to set up a self-benefiting Fund-in-Trust project to elaborate the development of the Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP) for the property should be welcomed. The finalization and implementation of the CCMP is a crucial priority that must also include the establishment of a dedicated Conservation and Management Unit for the World Heritage property. This is in line with Committee Decision CONF 209 VIII.C.1, adopted at the time of inscription (Marrakesh, 1999), in which the Committee had already drawn the attention of the State Party to the recommendations of ICOMOS concerning: “(a) the creation of a heritage conservation unit; (b) the establishment of a buffer zone along the length of the property; and (c) the establishment of an adapted management plan”. Capacity development for all those involved in managing and running the railway and its buffer zone (once established) is also essential.

It is therefore recommended that the Committee express its concern about the damage to the property and the erosion of the attributes of its OUV, due to the lack of appropriate protection, maintenance and management since inscription.

In order to prevent further damage to the property and obtain expert advice and support, it is further recommended that the Committee request the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission to the property in order to assist the State Party in assessing the property’s state of conservation, identifying priorities for action and reporting on these, while also formulating a set of recommendations for the State Party aimed at preventing further erosion of the property’s OUV.

Decision Adopted: 43 COM 7B.62

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/19/43.COM/7B.Add,
  2. Recalling Decisions CONF 209 VIII.C.1, 29 COM 8B.31 and 32 COM 8B.28, adopted at its 23rd (Marrakesh, 1999), 29th (Durban, 2005) and 32nd (Quebec City, 2008) sessions respectively,
  3. Regrets that the State Party did not submit the information requested by the World Heritage Centre between 2017 and 2019 regarding the lack of monitoring and general maintenance, serious encroachment by illegal construction and waste dumping along the tracks of the property;
  4. Takes note of the outcomes of the 2018 mission to the property of the UNESCO Office in New Delhi and expresses concern about the erosion of attributes bearing the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV), as a result of management issues faced by the property over the 20 years since its inscription, and failure to implement the recommendations formulated by ICOMOS at the time of inscription;
  5. Welcomes the initiative of Indian Railways to set up a self-benefiting Funds-in-Trust project in order to help develop a Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP) for the property to address longstanding issues, and requests the State Party to:
    1. Implement this plan once it has been reviewed by the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies,
    2. Establish a conservation and management unit for the property;
  6. Recommends that the State Party submit to the World Heritage Committee a proposal to clarify the property’s boundaries and define a buffer zone, along with details of proposed policy and legal instruments to improve the protection and management of the property;
  7. Also requests the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission to the property in order to assist the State Party in assessing the property’s state of conservation, to identify priorities for action and report on these, while also formulating a set of recommendations for the State Party aimed at preventing further erosion of the property’s OUV;
  8. Further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2020, a report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 44th session in 2020.