Saturday, August 21, 2010

Tourist May Not be able to Visit Heritage Sights

Delhi is hungry to showcase its rich heritage to tourists coming for the Commonwealth Games. But, the ASI is not serious about hunger pangs that the visitors may suffer during their tour of the popular monuments in the city. With six weeks to go for the event, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI)’s plan to set up food kiosks at heritage sites is yet to take off.

Cafeterias or food kiosks were to be set up within the protected areas of five monuments Red Fort, Qutub Minar, Humayun’s Tomb, Purana Qila and Jantar Mantar. However, ASI’s failure to even float tenders has left heritage conservationists wondering if the project will be ready in time.

It usually takes three to four weeks to complete a project after expressions of interest have been called. ‘‘ASI has less than two months to float tenders, award contracts to the chosen contractors and set up food kiosks. That’s a tall order,” said sources.

ASI officials admitted that there was a delay but ‘‘things were in process’’. ‘‘Our conservation consultant has provided us with details of the proposal and we will call the expressions of interest,’’ said an ASI official.

Visitors are not allowed to carry eatables inside protected sites, especially world heritage monuments, and though drinking water is available at most places, foreign tourists prefer bottled water. ‘‘It’s obvious that tourists will need some place to eat while visiting these monuments. Even the monitoring committee realized this when they de-sealed a restaurant run by ITDC inside Red Fort,’’ said an official. Monuments in Delhi do not even have vending machines within protected precincts as is a common facility in most countries.

UNESCO guidelines for world heritage sites state that restaurants should be located within reasonable distance from the monuments. For years, ASI has not allowed people to carry eatables inside fearing that they would litter the place. ‘‘However, a lot of people still carry eatables in their bags and escape getting caught. ASI has limited manpower and fail to catch the offenders. But if they want to stop this practice, then they have to set up food kiosks for visitors,’’ said a source.