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UNESCO World Heritage List

Topics Covered: Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.

UNESCO World Heritage List

What to study?

For Prelims: Heritage sites in India.

For Mains: The convention, significance and selection of sites.

Context: Government of India has submitted two nomination dossiers namely ‘Dholavira: A Harappan City’ and ‘Monuments and Forts of Deccan Sultanate’ for inclusion in the World Heritage List for the year 2020.

The list contains world heritage sites.

What is a World Heritage Site?

It is a location having an “Outstanding Universal Value”. According to the World Heritage Convention’s Operational Guidelines, an Outstanding Universal Value signifies “cultural and/or natural significance which is so exceptional as to transcend national boundaries and to be of common importance for present and future generations of all humanity.”


The Sites fall into three categories: cultural heritage, natural heritage, and mixed heritage (cultural as well as natural).

Who selects the Sites?

The UNESCO World Heritage Committee meets at least once every year, generally in June/July, to deliberate the addition, removal, or modification of items on the list of World Heritage Sites.

How do countries get their preferred spots included?

According to the Guidelines, the State Parties prepare a Tentative List, or the “inventory of those properties situated on its territory which each State Party considers suitable for nomination to the World Heritage List.”. A nomination document is then prepared in this regard based on which the application is considered by the Committee.

  • In India, the Indian National Commission for Co-operation with UNESCO (INCCU), and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) are the bodies which play a key role in this regard.

After receiving nominations from the State Parties, the Committee then puts them through a rigorous examination before any new location can qualify as a World Heritage Site.

What happens after a World Heritage Site is declared?

  1. Most importantly, getting featured on the list of World Heritage Sites affords the location a coveted status, driving up demand for travel and tourism from around the world geared towards it.
  2. At the same time, a heavy onus is placed on the government of the country in which the Site is located for its conservation and upkeep.
  3. The Committee conducts regular audits at declared Sites, and can place a spot that is seriously threatened on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
  4. If the Outstanding Universal Value of the property is destroyed, the Committee can consider deleting the property from the World Heritage List.

Facts for Prelims:

Dholavira is located in the Khadir Island in the Rann of Kutch in Gujarat. It is a mature harappan site.

Insta link:
Prelims link:
1.       Various world heritage sites in India and their geographical locations and significance.
2.       Overview of harappan civilisation with a special focus on Dholavira.
3.       Deccan sultanate architecture.
Mains Link:
What are world heritage sites? Why are they significant? Discuss.

Sources: pib.