chapter  9
18 Pages

Golden geese or white elephants? The paradoxes of world heritage sites and community-based tourism development in Agra, India

WithSurajit Chakravarty, Clara Irazábal

This study examines the relationship between World Heritage Sites (WHSs) and local community development where these sites are located, particularly in the context of small cities in the developing world. Our case study is the city of Agra in India, where three WHSs, including the renowned Taj Mahal, are located in close proximity to each other. We investigate two interrelated themes: the role of planning in developing the tourism potential of the Taj Mahal and the other WHSs, and the impact of WHS-related policies in the development of the city of Agra. This inquiry stems from the observation that the city of Agra has not converted the development potential created by the presence of three World Heritage designated sites into significant economic, community and infrastructure improvements. In its Final Report on 20 Years Perspective Plan of Uttar Pradesh, the state where Agra is located, the Department of Tourism, Government of India notes that ‘‘Agra has

very poor civic conditions with dirty roads, lanes and drains’’ (2002, p. 3). Further, in profiling of the city, the National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA) reports that:

The Agra case study reveals a set of developmental paradoxes whereby a city is unable to convert World Heritage designation into proportionate advances in local community development in a context where it is sorely needed. It is therefore legitimate to ask whether, in the context of developing cities, WHSs are ‘‘golden geese’’ or ‘‘white elephants’’—i.e. are they catalysts for community development or added burdens on local infrastructure and budgets?