Why are Thrissur, Nilambur in Kerala and Warangal in Telangana on UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities?

The UNESCO website stated that all three cities have a cultural heritage, vision, strategy, good practices, policies, and action plans.

ByAjay Tomar

Published Sep 06, 2022 | 7:01 PM Updated Sep 07, 2022 | 9:20 AM

UNESCO Global Networking Learning Cities (GNLC) is an “international policy-oriented network providing inspiration, know-how, and best practice. (Creative Commons)

Three South Indian cities —  Warangal from Telangana, and Thrissur and Nilambur from Kerala — on Monday, 5 September, joined the Global Network of Learning Cities (GNLC), which is maintained by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

Experts believe that the cities have achieved development over the years.

The official Twitter account of the Permanent Delegation of India to UNESCO posted a link to the organisation’s website that listed the criteria for the inclusion of the cities in the GNLC.

These included a rich cultural heritage, a high vision and strategy, some good practices, and proper implementation of policies and action plans.

The UNESCO website explained that the GNLC is an “international policy-oriented network providing inspiration, know-how, and best practice”.

It added: “Learning cities at all stages of development can benefit greatly from sharing ideas with other cities, as solutions for issues that arise as one learning city develops may already exist in other cities.”

For Telangana, this is the second UNESCO recognition in a year, after Warangal’s 13th-century Ramappa temple — now in Mulugu district — became the first archaeological site from the state to join the UNESCO list of world heritage sites.

Effective vision and policies

The UNESCO website stated that all three cities enrolled in the GNLC performed well in attaining sustainability and health, equity and inclusion, and decent work and entrepreneurship.

Warangal, a green and healthy city

According to UNESCO, Warangal “views lifelong learning as the path to achieving a green and healthy living environment”.

It added: “Through its lifelong learning initiative, the city plants trees, develops more recreational areas, improves facilities and governance, and provides job opportunities for marginalised groups.”

Kakatiya University sociology professor Kunta Ailaiah shared the same view.

“Warangal has made rapid development in every field over the years. Even the standard of living is good in the city, with more greenery, housing, and job opportunities for people,” he told South First.

Warangal museum. (Creative Commons)

Warangal museum. (Creative Commons)

Ailaiah added that daily-wagers from Telangana as well as other states regularly migrate to Warangal and work at brick kilns, granite factories, and other industries that meet the proper minimum-wage criteria.

He also pointed out that Warangal has developed a policy framework focused on providing civic facilities and promoting a healthy network.

UNESCO, meanwhile, explained that the city promoted equity and inclusion of all groups including women and children.

It added that skill development centres had been opened in Warangal to increase economic development and reduce unemployment.

Thrissur, Kerala’s cultural capital

UNESCO said that it hoped to keep getting the support of the Kerala Institute of Local Administration to incorporate all the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Thrissur public library. (Creative Commons)

Thrissur public library. (Creative Commons)

The institute is a key partner of Thrissur and the city’s Kerala University of Health Sciences.

It offers a wide range of opportunities to harness advanced knowledge of health sciences, which can be used to advise a municipal health strategy.

The UN body said Thrissur plans to foster an inclusive learning environment by creating more educational and training institutions with the help of its development, welfare, and education standing committees.

While mentioning its strong banking and jewellery industry, UNESCO also mentioned the vital role of the MSME Development Institute of India regional centre in Thrissur, an entrepreneurship institution to hone the skills.

Nilambur, a prime destination for ecotourism

Emphasising Nilambur’s initiative to promote gender equality, inclusivity, and democracy through community participation, UNESCO pointed out the city’s effort toward reducing harassment.

Nilambur Teak Museum. (Creative Commons)

Nilambur Teak Museum. (Creative Commons)

While explaining the city’s healthcare initiatives, the UN body was of the opinion: “Nilambur offers its free healthcare facilities to all citizens and utilises health volunteers to provide door-to-door treatment for bedded patients.”

It added: “It also promotes first-aid training for students and young citizens. Some hilly areas are facing connectivity problems: Telemedicine facilities will therefore be implemented to reach these populations.”

The UN body also took note of the city’s balanced composition of caste, class, and economy.

UNESCO added that a skill-gap study is being conducted to identify entrepreneurship gaps while aiming to promote local business, handicrafts, agriculture and eco-tourism.

Good practices

Warangal, opportunities for transgender groups

UNESCO also praised Warangal for its good practices in day-to-day life. These include a healthy living environment for children, free training leading to job opportunities for transgender groups, and empowering self-help groups.

Warangal Fort. (Creative Commons)

Warangal Fort. (Creative Commons)

“Several initiatives have been implemented; these include renovating local schools, improving road safety, and providing interactive games for children. Training in maintenance and pharmaceutics are just two of the options available. Over 125,000 citizens belong to various self-help groups throughout the city, which address women, people with disabilities, marginalized and vulnerable communities,” UNESCO said in a collective observation.

“Enough schools are there for basic and higher education. The city’s literacy rate is around 80 percent and growing. There is no bias between genders too. The Central government is also planning to open Central Tribal University, which will bring more opportunities and henceforth more jobs,” Ailaiah observed.

While talking about the peaceful living environment of Warangal, absent any kind of social disruption, Ailaiah pointed to the rich cultural heritage of the city.

“Tourism is also doing good, and more people — including foreigners — are also visiting the monuments of the city. The Archaeological Survey of India is also doing a good job. We expect more tourists to come,” he told South First.

Thrissur focuses on vulnerable groups

Pooram festival. (Creative Commons)

Thrissur Pooram festival. (Creative Commons)

As per the report, the annual projects in the city provide continuous learning along with special projects for disadvantaged groups with laptops, essential furniture, and learning rooms.

It also mentioned the Thrissur Pooram, an annual festival celebrating artistic, cultural, musical and folk-art traditions in the city.

“It attracts a large number of people not only from the city but also individuals from other regions and countries,” said the UN body, hinting at its significance as a tourist destination.

Nilambur a waste-free city

UNESCO observed that Nilambur runs a project promoting a decentralised waste-management system and promotes recycling.

A teak plantation. (Creative Commons)

A teak plantation. (Creative Commons)

The “teak-town” (a reference to the teak plants in the city) also runs pre-primary education programmes for children below the age of six.

“The programme also enables adults between 15 and 50 years of age to acquire the equivalent of Grade 4 in promoting the education system,” it added.

Motivational sessions for children and older people are also run, in an encouraging move for most of the city’s open spaces and parks.

“This initiative also addresses child labour, provides basic health facilities for older people, and arranges training sessions for citizens with disabilities and mental disabilities,” it said.


Many political figures took it to Twitter and joined the celebration of the inclusion of the cities into the GNLC.

Union Minister For Culture and Tourism G Kishan Reddy congratulated Warangal and Telangana.

The BJP leader also thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi “for the sustained efforts to get global recognition & showcase the rich cultural heritage of India [sic]”.

Telangana Minister for Panchayati Raj, Rural Development and Rural Water Supply Errabelli Dayakar Rao, an MLA from the Palakurthi constituency of the Warangal district, thanked Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao and Municipal Minister KT Rama Rao for the UNESCO recognition.

BJP Telangana President Bandi Sanjay Kumar, meanwhile, tweeted: