24 of the 40 World Heritage Sites in India are protected & managed by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). Data indicates that close to Rs. 250 crores were spent on them since 2017-18 while the revenue generated from 20 of these monuments from 2019-20 is around Rs. 385 crores of which 40% is from Taj Mahal.
A World Heritage Site is a Cultural or a Natural landmark that is recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). This recognition is given to landmarks that signify a remarkable accomplishment of humanity or great natural beauty which have a historical, cultural, scientific, or other significance. By recognizing such landmarks, the effort is to ensure preservation and conservation which otherwise would get neglected and lost if left unmonitored. Such sites that are recognized by UNESCO are demarcated and receive legal protection, recognition as well as funding towards the conservation and promotion efforts.
Internationally, UNESCO has recognized 1,154 World Heritage Sites across 167 countries.
India has 40 World Heritage Sites recognized by the UNESCO. Of these 40 sites, 32 are cultural, 7 are natural and one is categorized as mixed. Factly’s article about World Heritage Sites and such sites in India can be read here. While a landmark being recognized as World Heritage Site is a considerable achievement and recognition, it is also important to ensure the conservation of the same.
24 out of 40 Global Heritage Sites in India under the protection of Archaeological Survey of India
Various Government agencies are responsible for the protection & conservation of the 40 UNESCO recognized Global Heritage Sites in the country. Most of them i.e., 24 are under the protection of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). ASI is an Indian government Agency that is responsible for archaeological research, conservation, and preservation of cultural & historical monuments in the country.
The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has the onus to protect the 7 Natural Sites as well as Khangchendzonga National Park which is a mixed site. Two sites i.e., Mountain Railways of India and Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus are under the protection of Ministry of Railways.
Of the other 6 World Heritage sites, 3 are preserved by the respective municipal corporations.
Responding to a question in Lok Sabha during the recently concluded Winter session, the government highlighted the role of ASI in preserving the Centrally protected World heritage Sites.
Close to Rs. 250 crores spent on Centrally protected sites since 2017-18
In the same response provided in Lok Sabha in December 2022, the Government of India furnished information of the expenditure incurred by ASI towards the conservation & development of amenities, maintenance etc. of Centrally Protected Heritage Sites. This information pertains to only the 24 World Heritage Sites protected by ASI and does not include the expenditure incurred towards the remaining World Heritage Sites protected by other agencies.
As per the update provided in Lok Sabha, Rs. 32.6 crores were spent on Centrally Protected sites as of December during 2022-23. In 2021-22, expenditure of Rs. 44.5 crores were incurred by ASI. This was an increased compared to 2020-21, where-in the expenditure dropped compared to the previous year, possibly on account of COVID-19 pandemic.
During the five-year period 2017-18 to 2021-22, the greatest expenditure incurred was during 2018-19, with a total of Rs. 55.32 crores. This was nearly double to the total expenditure incurred on these centrally protected heritage sites in 2017-18. There was an increase in the expenditure incurred in 2018-19, across most of these heritage sites. However, the most was on – Group of monuments at Hampi and Red Fort Complex.
The Ministry of Culture’s Annual Report 2018-19 states that major conservation and development activities were undertaken across various sites. Monuments at Red Fort, Hampi were among the sites referred to in this report.
Highest expenditure on Red Fort followed by monuments at Hampi & Taj Mahal
During the period 2017-18 to 2021-22, around Rs. 59.7 crores were spent by ASI on Red Fort Complex. A further Rs. 5.8 crores are spent as of 12 December 2022 in the current financial year. A major portion of this is during the three-year period of 2018-19 to 2020-21, where-in expenditure of Rs. 18.8 crores, Rs. 15.6 crores and Rs. 13.4 crores were incurred on Red Fort.
During the same period around, Rs. 33 crores were spent on Monuments in Hampi. However, nearly half of it is during 2018-19. The conservation and development works carried out in 2018-19 could be the reason. Next on this list is Taj Mahal in terms of expenditure incurred. However, there is a consistent expenditure in range of Rs. 3-4 crores every year on it instead of any increased expenditure in a specific year.
The Churches & Convents of Goa has seen a recent increase in expenditure with Rs. 4.46 crores in 2021-22 and already an amount of Rs.10.5 crores were spent in the 9 months of 2022-23. On the other hand, many other World Heritage Sites have seen comparatively lower expenditure. For instance, only about Rs. 83 lakhs were spent during this period on Bhimbetka Rock shelters. The expenditure on 10 of these World Heritage sites is less than Rs. 5 crores each since 2017-18. The two latest additions of Dholavira & Ramappa Temple received Rs. 1.25 crores and Rs. 1.3 crores since 2021-22.
Fall in Revenues due to pandemic despite recent recovery
In one Factly’s earlier stories, we had highlighted that India tourism sector was severely affected by COVID-19 and is yet to recover. There was also a decline in the foreign tourists to India. This is evident in the data provided by the Government of India in Lok Sabha.
As per the information provided, the total revenue earned by government through the Centrally protected World Heritage Sites in 2019-20 was Rs. 239.1 crores. During the pandemic year of 2020-21, the revenue fell to Rs. 28.9 crores. From 2019-20 to 2020-21, the number of footfalls at the 20 World Heritage monuments as provided in the Lok Sabha answer, fell from 2.45 crores to 57 lakhs. There was a recovery in 2021-22, when the number of footfalls increased to 1.25 crores, through which the total revenue generated was Rs. 61.8 crores. During the first 6 months of 2022-23 (April-September), the total number of footfalls were 88.6 lakhs with a revenue of Rs. 56.8 crores.
Taj Mahal generates 40% of the Revenue from Centrally Protected World Heritage Sites
Among the 20 monuments for which the revenue figures are provided in the Lok Sabha, a major share is from Taj Mahal, followed by the Agra Fort. The cumulative revenue during the 3.5 year period of 2017-18 to first six months of 2022-23 from Taj Mahal was Rs. 152 crores i.e., 40% of the total revenue generated across the 20 listed monuments during this period. The total footfalls during the period were 1.24 crores. Agra Fort, Qutub Minar and Red Fort are the other monuments which have a higher footfall and generate higher revenue among the 20 monuments. These 4 monuments make up 66% i.e., around 2/3rd of the total revenue generated through the centrally protected World Heritage sites.
Monuments at Mamallapuram, Sun Temple at Konark and Ellora Caves are the other monuments which attract a greater number of footfalls and generate higher revenue.
Need for higher expenditure on lesser-known World Heritage Sites
Data indicates that monuments like Taj Mahal, which is among the 7 wonders of the world and more recognized has higher footfall and thereby generates higher revenue. Similarly, Red Fort, Qutub Minar, Konark Sun Temple, etc. are the other monuments in the country which are well known and thereby have higher number of visitors. The expenditure on few of these sites is also higher.
Among the key purposes of recognizing a monument as World Heritage Site is to make efforts to conserve & develop them along with promoting them. As the data indicates, the expenditure on few of these sites is lower than others. This is also reflected in the lower number of tourists visiting them resulting in lower revenues. In this context, increased expenditure in recent years on Heritage sites like Sanchi Stupa, Churches & Convents in Goa, etc. is welcome. However, there is a need to increase expenditure on rest of the sites as well including the ones added to the list in the recent years.
Better facilities & greater promotion of these sites could also attract an increased number of foreign tourists as ‘World Heritage Sites’ are sought after by global tourists. This is important especially in the aftermath of COVID-19 when the world is slowly retuning back to normal and tourism activity is picking up across the globe.