HT, 7 May 2016, Kolkata:DARJEELING: Darjeeling Himalayan Railway ( DHR), which runs the toy train, recently initiated a fortnightlong cleanliness drive to commemorate World Heritage Day.
“World Heritage Day is observed on April 18. We decided to observe it by cleaning stations of the toy train from April 16 to April 30. We cleaned Sukna, Rongtong, Darjeeling and Kurseong railway stations. School students and NGOs took part in the programme. It is to promote community participation in this world heritage railway network,” said Narendra Mohan, area officer of DHR.
UNESCO, in 1983, had declared April 18 as the International Heritage Day. It aims at raising public awareness about the diversity and vulnerability of monuments, sites and railway systems like the DHR.
The toy train was declared a world heritage railway network by UNESCO on November 26, 2000. The day saw Class 12 students of Maharani Girls’ High School along with Sewa Karya, an NGO pitching in with the DHR employees, to clean the Darjeeling railway station.
Sweeping the station and the tracks and removal of garbage was part of the cleanliness programme. “I have grown up hearing the sound of the whistle of the DHR. This world heritage train is an integral part of hill life. I feel proud to do my bit for the toy train,” said Nisha Rai, Class 12 student of Maharani Girl High School, Darjeeling.
The DHR had invited Sewa Karya to participate. “The entire community should come forward for the upkeep of the DHR. The DHR has put Darjeeling on the world map,” said Pranita Subba of Sewa Karya.
Recently, a UNESCO team comprising experts had visited Darjeeling for developing a comprehensive conservation management plan for the toy train.
The two-year long project will involve survey, documentation, dialogue and take into consideration institutional management, finances, legal and technical aspects.
Kai Weise, team leader and expert on world heritage sites and systems, told HT, “We have to work out a sustainable plan to ensure a balance between a functional railway system and retaining heritage values.”
In the year 1879, work star ted on the DHR, then called the Darjeeling Steam Tramways. The stretch from Siliguri to Kurseong was opened on August 23, 1880. The Siliguri to Darjeeling track was inaugurated on July 4, 1881. The name of the rail company was later changed to Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Company.