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Cultural significance

The earliest evidence indicates that by the 6th century AD, the island was one of the first major points of contact for traders between Europe, Africa, the Arabian peninsula and South Asia. As such, the island was able to generate income from taxes and commerce that enabled the creation of the Elephanta Cave temples, which are one of the greatest archaeological sites in Inida and are among the earliest extant form of Shaivite architecture and sculpture. Together with the cave temples at Ajanta and Ellora it is one of the finest of this tradition of architecture and sculpture, which spread to other parts of Asia. The island is an important and fragile natural and cultural resource in the heavily industrialized port area of Mumbai.

Action plan

  • Document through early evidence eg. Coins, pottery etc. the historic and geographic importance of the island
  • Document and excavate the Stupa and related structures on the hill adjacent to the caves and request that these be included in the World Heritage site as well
  • Document and investigate local vernacular traditions including architecture and intangible heritage
  • Investigate claim of local community to be original inhabitants of the site
  • Document the flora and fauna of the island with the objectives of establishing a nature interpretation center

Objectives of development strategy

  • To provide mechanisms for planning control of the island by allocating zones of relative sensitivity of the natural and historical resources of the island
    • Preservation zone
    • Conservation zone
    • Development zone
  • To facilitate the comfort and safety of the tourist/visiotr to the island and contribute to the general well being of the community in a sustainable way

Role of cultural heritage resource

  • Leverage the status of the World Heritage designation to ensure government spending on infrastructure and sustainable development
  • Promote information and publicity about the site

Measures for ensuring sustainability of cultural resource

The government is committees to working with all the stakeholders and the Chief Minister has set up a statutory Apex Committee consisting of all the governmental departments, representatives of the tourism sector, environmentalists and INTACH, to ensure the proper development of the site

Action plan

  • INTACH will make a recommendation to declare the site an Eco Sensitive zone which provides it with the maximum protection under law
  • Investigate the successful management of the relationship between the community and the natural resources of the island to develop and protect these

Contribution of tourism

The tourism sector has been concerned about the safety and comfort of the tourist and so does not actively promote the site. However this can be remedied once appropriate infrastructure has been established.

Action plan

  • Removal of the toy train which is the first thing that greets the visitor to the island and is environmentally unfriendly and unsafe
  • Provide alternative shageg resting areas as per plan and in consultation with the tourism industry representatives
  • Establishment of emergency services in case of accident
  • Investigate incinerator toilets
  • Sterilisation of monkeys and stray dogs
  • Safety and comfort of ferry boats
  • Promote eco tourism at the site
  • Approach PATA and other tourism associations for support to improve the transportation and educate the boat men appropriately

MODEL 1: Fiscal management of heritage conservation

Action plan

  • The Apex committee has decided to institute a tourist tax which has gone to CM for approval
  • Fundraising is an ongoing activity. We have had two successful fund raisers (a total of c.$ 110,000.00)
  • Conservation fund for heritage is in place. Both the Development Authority and the Archaeological Survey are involved in funding for the site
  • Encourage villagers to take tourists around their village for a nominal charge which can be put into a village improvement fund

MODEL 2: Investment by tourism industry

To date tourism industry has not actively been involved with or promote the site. However with the planned improvement of infrastructure we hope to engage the tourism industry in more productive ways, such as:

Action plan

  • Establish a web site with as many linkages as possible
  • Publication about the site to be released
  • Film is being made on the site for hotels and airlines
  • Long term plan to make a virtual reality CD of the site
  • Include tourist guide on the web site
  • Put together a childrens’ education kit on the web with puzzles and quizzes
  • Put together a special program for school children of different ages to visit the site with guides. Special training will be given to the guides for this
  • Put together an educational video to be shown in the school prior to the visit and for municipal schools

MODEL 3: Community education and skills training

We have an extensive program for augmenting community skills in many areas. This includes:

  • Training in entrepreneurial skills for the hawkers
  • Establishment of a womens’ self helf group

Action plan

  • Training in making and block printing paper and cloth bags to prevent the use of plastic on the island
  • Teachers training program
  • Paramedic training program
  • Local language guides training
  • The women have built a community center through voluntary action
  • Conduct a study of abandoned traditional skills
  • We have conducted classes in reproductive health and sanitation

Programs for children

  • We have provided a revolving library for the children who have no access to books
  • We are funding teachers to educate the 9th and 10th grade students
  • We are providing extra tuition for 10th grade students who will be sitting for the board exams
  • We have also conducted an immunization program for children

MODEL 4: Consensus building between stakeholders

  • The Apex committee is involved in this effort. A core group of stakeholders has been constituted to meet on a monthly basis to sort out the problem
  • INTACH works closely with other NGOs in the community to facilitate its objectives


The most important macro project is to put in place a hazard management plan to protect the island and the caves from the location threats.

The most important micro project is to establish a consensus among difficult stakeholders.


Core group agency

Responsibilities of agency
* indicates shared responsibities

ASI (Archaeological Survey of <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 /><st1:country-region>India</st1:country-region>)

  • Restoration and maintenance of archaeological monuments
  • Monitoring of archaeological sites
  • Excavating and exploration of new/potential sites
  • Environmental management plan*
  • Geological studies*
  • MTDC (Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation)

  • Provision and management of tourist facilities
  • Restoration and development of new spots of tourist interest
  • Maintenance of MTDC Guest House
  • Organization of cultural festivals
  • Provision of electric supply (obligatory responsibility)
  • Visitor management plan*
  • MMRDA (Mumbai Metropolitan Development Authority)

  • Overall coordination of development activities
  • Mapping
  • Preparation of database*
  • Comprehensive development plna*
  • Visitor magagement plan*
  • Hazard management plan*
  • Amenities and afforestation plan*
  • Conservation management plan*
  • Environmental management plan*
  • Financing agency for infrastructure development*
  • Implementation of development proposals
  • INTACH (Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage)

  • Comprehensive development plan*
  • Visitor management plan*
  • Hazard management plan*
  • Heritage evaluation
  • Conservation management plan*
  • Environmental management plan*
  • Geological studies (coordination)*
  • DFO (Divisional Forest Office)

  • Preparation of database*
  • Amenities and afforestation plan*
  • Environmental mangement plan*
  • Comprehensive development plan*
  • CIDCO (joined in year 2001) (City & Industrial Development Corporation)

  • Financing agency for infrastructure development*
  • Implementation of development proposals*

  • Implementation of development proposals*
  • Monitoring development activities on the island
  • Protection of the island from vandalism
  • Consultants: Suneeta Samant, Kirtida Unwalla
    Project coordinator: Tasneem Mehta. Convenor. INTACH GMC