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Four sites in India earn World Heritage Irrigation Structure label


This year, four sites in India have been awarded the World Heritage Irrigation Structure (WHIS) ​​label. The sites are the Cumbum Tank, Kurnool-Cuddapah Canal, Porumamilla Tank (Anantharaja Sagaram) in Andhra Pradesh, and the 490-year-old Dhamapur Lake in the Sindhudurg district of Maharashtra. In 2018, Pedda Cheru Tank in Kamareddy district and Sadarmat Anicut in Nirmal district, both in Telangana, were named as WHIS sites.

The International Irrigation and Drainage Commission (ICID), a global network of experts in irrigation, drainage and flood management, annually recognizes irrigation structures of international importance along the lines of UNESCO-recognized World Heritage sites.

Rishi Srivastava, director of the Central Water Commission (CWC), said they were notified earlier this month about the declaration. “It is a prestigious moment for India as these structures are now of international importance. These structures, when built, were ahead of their time in terms of technology. State governments will get more incentives and motivation to keep them and ensure they are functional for years to come based on this recognition. “

Dhamapur Lake in the Sindhudurg district of Maharashtra.

Dhamapur Lake in the Sindhudurg district of Maharashtra. (Photo: Sindhudurg Wetlands Brief Documentation Committee)

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Other globally recognized sites this year included four structures in China, two in Iran and three in Japan.

So far, Japan (42) has the highest number of WHIS sites followed by China (23). India, Iran and Sri Lanka have 6 each.

Each country has a national committee and they share the information about their sites with ICID, which then passes it on to an international jury. “The main criteria for WHIS imply that a structure must be more than 100 years old, must be functional, achieve food safety and have archival value. Each site is evaluated on its merits first by the state government. The proposal is then sent to the Center and a CWC team conducts a field survey to verify the details. The results are presented to the national committee, which finally presents the proposal in the prescribed format (with input from the central government and photographs in the field) to the international jury, ”said Srivastava.

Lake Dhamapur waters 237 hectares of land every year. There are 64 streams that feed it. Two outlets emerging from the Kavadewadi Dam and the Guramwadi Dam also supply it with water. The site was built in 1530 by the inhabitants of Dhamapur and Kalse.

“The size of these lakes or dams is not a criteria for WHIS, as Dhamapur is much smaller than other dams that have received this recognition this year or in the past, but the most surprising thing is that this lake is almost 500 years old. It was and continues to be a technological marvel that has endured through time, ”said Srivastava.

Sachin Desai, a local resident, said that Dhamapur Lake is an example of community participation in the past and present. “Show the wisdom of our ancestors. Recognition saves the area from unplanned development and also creates history. This shows that educated citizens must present themselves to document the heritage and natural assets of our country. “

The CWC plans to nominate more sites this year. “By 2021, we have written letters to all the chief secretaries of state to identify and propose such ancient structures before the next meeting scheduled for this time next year. Due to Covid-19, the entire process was slightly delayed this year. However, we want at least 8-10 valuable proposals, if not more, by early 2021, so that we have time to evaluate them in the field, ”said Srivastava.

Nomination forms must be submitted to ICID before June 30 of each year.

Srivastava said countries like Pakistan previously received WHIS for structures built more than 100 years ago. “While those structures may be located in present-day Pakistan, they were actually built in India. That’s when we started the process and wrote to various states to ask them to propose such structures that showcase our rich heritage, ”he said.

Lake Dhamapur is one of the top 100 wetlands in India identified by the Union government for rapid restoration and enhancement. The Maharashtra government is expected to propose it as a Ramsar site (wetland of international importance). There are 193 species of flowers and 247 of fauna in this wetland.

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