Mumbai: With union finance minister Arun Jaitley’s announcement in the budget to improve the required facilities at nine heritage sites, the Elephanta Caves near the city is set to get a much needed facelift. Jaitley, while presenting the budget on Saturday in Lok Sabha, has proposed to ‘provide resources’ at the heritage sites for tourism development.
“India has 25 (twenty five) Cultural World Heritage Sites. These facilities are still deficient and require restoration, including landscape restoration; signage and interpretation centres; parking; access for the differently abled; visitors’ amenities, including securities and toilets; illumination and plans for benefiting communities around them,” Jaitley said in his speech.
Apart from Elephanta Caves, Jaitley has also proposed to set aside funds for churches and convents of old Goa, Hampi in Karnataka, Kumbalgarh and other hill forts of Rajasthan, Rani ki Vav in Gujarat, Leh Palace, Varanasi temple town, Jalianwala Bagh in Amritsar and Qutub Shahi Tomb in Hyderabad.
The Elephanta Caves, which were carved in 6th – 7th centuries AD, is located on island hills around nine nautical miles from Mumbai.The caves were renovated in the 1970s and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987 to preserve the artwork. Presently, it is maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
Presently, it takes tourists an hour to reach the island and since they can’t stay there, a trip to the island is restricted to around 5-6 hours. Thousands visit the Elephanata caves daily.
Officials from the state tourism department said the allocation would be a major boost to improve the Elephanta Caves.
“It has come as a major boost to us. We had discussed with the union tourism ministry earlier regarding upgradation of the infrastructure facilities and better transportation to Elephanta Caves to attract more tourists. Now, we will now work out a plan considering all the aspects,” a government official told Firstpost on condition of anonymity.
The official added that since the island lacks basic facilities, the government would need to focus on day-long power supply, proper facilities for tourists to stay, recreational facilities, improvement of jetties and security arrangements.
"There is no electricity in many parts of Elephanata Island and the issue needs to be resolved on priority basis. Also, to reduce the time in reaching the Island from Gateway of India, we are thinking of setting up a helipad but we will have to work out a plan for it," an official explained.
Heritage experts in the city have welcomed the inclusion of the site in the union budget for refurbishment.
“It is historic move to improve the infrastructure at the heritage site since Mumbai has only two world heritage sites. Such world heritage sites should get due funding for better visitor management, better transport and infrastructure facilities. Also, other world heritage sites in country should also get due funding to improve the facilities,” Abha Narain Lambah, a conservation architect, said.
Updated Date: Mar 02, 2015 12:29:55 IST