Disaster management systems can safeguard our heritage | editorials | Hindustan Times
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Disaster management systems can safeguard our heritage

India is a signatory to the 2015 Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, which recognises that the State has the primary role in reducing disaster risk and identifies heritage as a priority area. Based on this, the NDMA report also has detailed guidelines for museums on the systems that need to be put in place to tackle different kinds of threats.

editorials Updated: Oct 29, 2017 17:05 IST
A massive fire destroyed the 40-year-old National Museum of Natural History in New Delhi on April 28, 2016
A massive fire destroyed the 40-year-old National Museum of Natural History in New Delhi on April 28, 2016(HT)

The first-of-its-kind analysis by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) of the threats India’s museums face lists terrorism; climate-related events such as floods, earthquakes and tsunamis; and vandalism. This is a timely reminder that theft and vandalism are not the sole security concerns for a museum. Of special interest are the climate-related events. Across the world, museums routinely evaluate non-security threats. And governments are increasingly thinking of cultural heritage and the risks and threats to the same when they draw up their disaster management strategies for museums. India has experienced this in the past. Most recently, in 2014, floods destroyed the 115-year-old Pratap Singh Museum in Srinagar.

The authority’s report lists the National Museum in New Delhi, the national Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi, Bengaluru, and Mumbai, the Victoria Memorial Museum and the Indian Museum in Kolkata, and the Allahabad Museum as being under threat. Terrorism and vandalism apart, many of these museums are located in high seismic activity zones and are at risk from earthquakes, the report said. India is a signatory to the 2015 Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, which recognises that the State has the primary role in reducing disaster risk and identifies heritage as a priority area. Based on this, the authority’s report also has detailed guidelines for museums on the systems that need to be put in place to tackle different kinds of threats.

Fundamentally, museum security matters for the same reasons that museums matter: Museums educate the public, promote cultural heritage and communities, and remind us of India’s pluralistic culture. Without them, we would erase the story of our past. As public spaces, these museums attract significant revenue and create safe and open public spaces. In 2015, the Union government promised to implement the Sendai framework. Now that the NDMA’s report on museums is out, the Centre must do so without delay. .