The Kerala Tourism department signed an agreement with the United Nations body, Unesco, for envisaging cooperation between the state and the world’s foremost cultural organisation, in promoting and protecting the ancient Spice Route heritage in the state. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the cooperation was inked by the state and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization(Unesco) for the purpose.
Kerala minister for Tourism AP Anilkumar said the Spice Route project is a new milestone for the growth of tourism in Kerala. It is a revival of the ancient spice route that connected 31 countries in Asia, Africa and Europe. “The success of the project relied upon the support from all the 31 countries. That is why we have sought the cooperation of Unesco,” he added.
Under the agreement, the Spice Route initiative of the state government will form the bedrock of the cooperation, and a partnership for protection and promotion of historical monuments of Kerala. Both Kerala and Unesco would also mobilise bilateral and multilateral collaboration with countries that were part of the ancient spice trade between Kerala and the rest of the world. Unesco director and representative to India Shigeru Aoyagi described the signing of the agreement with Kerala Tourism as “a major landmark”.
“The Spice Route Project has a great potential for promoting world peace and inter-faith tolerance apart from contributing to the sustainable development of the countries involved. In the long run, Unesco aims to put the Muziris Heritage Project and the Spice Route Project on the World Heritage list,” he added.
Several historical areas of Kerala linked with the ancient Spice Route, including urban areas, would be developed under the agreement to promote heritage building.
As part of the programmes, Unesco will organise a culinary festival in which chefs from all the 31 countries linked to the Spice Route will reinvent the different culinary traditions of their countries.
Another highlight of the agreement is for promoting academic exchange, intercultural dialogue and joint heritage conservation projects on a shared heritage development initiative among the 31 countries of West Asia, Far East, Africa and Europe that were part of the Spice Route.
With the help of Unesco, Kerala Tourism has already taken the first step towards realising the project by initiating talks with the ambassadors of all Spice Route countries accredited with Unesco in Paris.
The Spice Route tours, which will be promoted in a big way internationally, are expected to give a spurt to foreign tourist arrivals in Kerala. The state now receives roughly one million overseas tourists every year. It is also expected to witness a conference of ambassadors related to the Spice Route countries.
Under the agreement, several heritage projects related to the Spice Route would be designed and implemented in the state besides undertaking surveys and studies, joint publications, seminars and workshops and capacity-building activities like instituting scholarships and internships.
Several villages and urban areas under Ernakaulam and Thrissur districts will be part of the Spice Route development initiative in the state. Archaeological evidences from excavations carried out by the state government in Pattanam in Ernakulam district have already given a huge boost to the Spice Route initiative, through discoveries of evidence linking the region around Kochi and Thrissur with the spice trade more than two millennia ago.