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Global Warming May Douse Iranshah Fire at Udvada


16 April 2008



  Fire Temple at Udvada
Photograph dated 1909 by William Thomas Fee, for National Geographic


LONDON, (CAIS) -- If there is one place the Parsi (Indian Zoroastrian) community considers holiest of holy in India, it is the small town of Udwada on the Gujarat coast. For two-and-a-half centuries, it has been home to the ‘holy fire’ known as 'Iranshah Ātash Bahrām' that they brought from Iran more than 1,300 years ago, reported the Economic Times, India.

But, just as Parsi numbers are dwindling, the Iran Shah, where the fire is kept, too is threatened by the forces of mother nature. Because of global warming, the rising Arabian Sea is threatening to drown the Iran Shah. 

The waves, which rise as high as 12 metres in the monsoon, have already damaged some houses and hotels on the beach. Today, the distance between the damaged houses and Iran-Shah is barely 200 metres. 

According to the preliminary observations of a committee of M S University geologists headed by professor Nikhil Desai, seawater has moved inland by around 15 metres from Danti towards Umbergaon in the last decade. Danti in Valsad is worst affected with seawater moving inland by about 90 metres. 

"The Gujarat government built the first protection wall to preserve Iran Shah but it was washed away. The second wall designed by Central Water and Power Research Station, incurring an expenditure of Rs 1.4 crore, is still unfinished but we don’t have funds to complete it," says Temas Pandol of Udwada Bachao Samiti (UBS), that has taken up the challenge of protecting this heritage town. 

Bioscientist and environmentalist Minoo Parabia feels protection is not a permanent solution. "We have to think of a permanent solution like shifting the holy fire to a safer place. In the past, whenever there was a threat to it, the fire was shifted." 

The fire was shifted from Sanjan in 1393 CE after Mahmood Ghaznavi had attacked India and descended on Sanjan. After a series of events, the fire was moved to Udwada in 1742. 

Chairman of Gujarat Ecology Society, Hasmukh Shah says, "Because of global warming, there is an urgent need to be concerned about treasures all along Gujarat’s coastline. Gujarat is looking at the coast for economic development and the agenda for protection of heritage properties, communities, fertile land should be part of the development agenda." 

hitarth.pandya at 



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