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Shimla’s historic landmarks to get facelift

Shimla, Feb 19 (IANS) A facelift of historic monuments of the British era in this Himachal Pradesh capital is on the cards with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) funding of $.75 million, an official said here Friday.

‘A comprehensive plan for preservation and restoration of historical buildings and promotion of tourism infrastructure in Shimla town has been submitted to the ADB,’ Tourism Principal Secretary Manisha Nanda told IANS.

A seven-member team, headed by Keiichi Tamaki, senior urban development specialist, urban development division, South Asia, ADB, is touring the state these days to study the funding proposals submitted by the government.

‘We have sought funds for renovating around 30 heritage buildings and monuments in Shimla. This would help strengthen heritage in the state,’ she said.

Prominent among the buildings now in poor shape are Ellerslie housing the state secretariat, Vidhan Sabha building, United Services Club, Gordon Castle, Town Hall housing the municipal corporation office, and Tourist Information Centre at Scandal Point.

Chief Secretary Asha Swarup said: ‘The ADB team interacted with government functionaries here (Shimla) yesterday (Thursday) and has shown keen interest in funding $.75 million in building tourism infrastructure, restoration and conservation of heritage properties, mainly in Shimla.’

In the past two days, the team visited several places across the state for first-hand information about the potential of tourism and need to restore monuments and buildings.

Prominent Hindu shrines Naina Devi and Chintpurni, the Pong Dam wetlands in Kangra district and Archaeological Survey of India-managed rock-cut temple of Masrur near Kangra town were among the places visited by the team.

‘The ADB is most likely to fund the projects from the next financial year. Another delegation is visiting the state in March,’ Swarup added.

Shimla’s Deputy Mayor Harish Janaratha said the municipal corporation is also planning to improve the cobbled streets on the Mall, which was once a ‘British only’ street meant for strolling on, and beautification of the historic Ridge, an open space just above the Mall, with the ADB funding.

‘We are also seeking special funds for the construction of a major parking lot for the tourists on the outskirts of the city to ease traffic congestion,’ he said.

The World Monuments Fund (WMF) has already included the century-old civic centre of Shimla, comprising imperial buildings, among four Indian historical monuments in the endangered list – 2010 World Monument Watch.

The WMF is a non-profit organisation working to identify and preserve the world’s endangered cultural landmarks.

‘Shimla’s civic centre, stretching from the neo-Gothic Christ Church to the Telegraph Office is a monument to the state’s apathy. Increased and unplanned development has caused considerable degradation to the town’s historic urban fabric,’ says a report posted on the WMF website.

Shimla has 91 British-era heritage buildings mostly in typical Tudor style – all wooden frames and shingled eaves – that are in bad shape.

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