Buffer Zone defined for DHR in crucial meeting between Railways and UNESCO
Darjeeling: "There is no threat to the heritage status accorded to the Darjeeling Himalayan Railways," stated Sanjiv Rai, General Manager, North-east Frontier Railways, while talking to media persons following a two-day meeting with the UNESCO representatives in Darjeeling.
The UNESCO representatives dubbed the meeting as a landmark one and added that it agreed on defining and agreeing on a buffer zone that is one of the most important components of conserving the world heritage railway.
"It was a very fruitful meeting. Though the DHR has been enjoying the world heritage tag for the past 20 years, the boundary of the heritage had not been defined and hence protecting it was a challenging task. In this landmark meeting, the Railways agreed to the Comprehensive Conservation Management Plan (CCMP) team's proposal of creating a buffer zone. The boundary discussion ended fruitfully in this meeting. The other stakeholders have to be proactive in the conservation and protection of this world heritage also. All the stakeholders including the local community need to come together for this," stated Junhi Han, Chief, Culture Department and Programme Specialist, UNESCO, New Delhi.
She appealed to all the stakeholders including the state government, Gorkhaland Territorial Administration, the municipality, Forest department and the PWD to come together for this noble task.
Commenting on the issue of land encroachment along the tracks, Junhi Han said: "There is no quick solution to this as people's lives are involved. There has to be a long term plan which should involve the other stakeholders. However, it has to be ensured that no further encroachment takes place," she remarked.
She also stated that the Indian Railways is committed and open to understanding that this industrial heritage also includes the old buildings like staff quarters, printing press and workshops. "They accepted this and even assured us that redundant components could be transformed into museums and community centres," stated Han.
Echoing similar sentiments, Ravinder Kumar Verma, Divisional Railway Manager, Katihar Division, maintained: "Heritage is not the track alone. The Hill Cart Road on which the DHR runs is also part of the heritage. The buffer zone will maintain the scenic beauty along the route. Any construction in the buffer zone has to confirm with the heritage nature. Other stakeholders will have to see this. We will also take up the matter of encroachment with the state and the local authorities."
Regarding work on the DHR, Verma stated that the revamped Ghayabari and Sonda stations will become operational before the end of this month. "20 to 25 new coaches will be introduced soon. 20 km of sleepers will be changed."
Adding to this, the GM stated: "The joy ride services of the DHR has witnessed a surge of 50% passengers than previous years. Vistadome coaches have been introduced along with AC coaches."
In 1879, work first started on the DHR, then called the Darjeeling Steam Tramways. DHR was titled as a world heritage site by UNESCO on December 2, 1999.
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