DHR may be tagged ‘endangered’ by Unesco

The Statesman

DARJEELING, 29 APRIL: The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) ~ a world heritage project ~ is in deep trouble, as the Unesco has warned to tag it as ‘endangered’ site unless the Indian government takes prompt initiatives to revamp the service that has remained partly crippled since several landslides occurred beginning with the major one in June 2010.

Unesco has taken a serious note of the service between NJP and Kurseong stations having remained suspended since.

In a letter written to the Union Minister of State for Railways, Mr Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, the Unesco representative to India, Bhutan, Maldives and Sri Lanka, Mr Shigeru Aoyagi, stated that the state of the DHR is perilous.

“If no action is taken by the Government of India for its prompt restoration it is possible that the Intergovernmental Committee of World Heritage Convention (may) advise to place the DHR in the list of endangered sites to provide focused attention for conservation,” the letter stated.

The DHR top officials pleaded helplessness. “I learnt about the letter a few days ago from a citizen of Darjeeling who visited us, but we are helpless. We are just employees without power to bring things back on the rails,” an official said.

Mr Pasang Dhendup, who had visited the DHR office after he had learnt about the letter, said when contacted that he had gone to the DHR office after getting the wind of the project being in danger. “I have been trying to make people aware of the danger to the best of my individual capacity. However, I cannot do much on my own. However, I would continue raising voice to protect the dignity of DHR we all boast of,” he added.

Beginning its career in 1880, it received the Unesco-sponsored world heritage site in 1999.

It is learnt that Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal has been invited by the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Society based in London, an old group of heritage railway enthusiasts, to attend a conference to be held on the subject of DHR restoration next month.

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