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All is not lost if we can retain the balance of our natural heritage

Considering that the Bloomberg Study in 2019 has rated Gurugram as the most polluted city in the world, there is need to put a halt to urban growth.

gurgaon Updated: Apr 16, 2019 09:41 IST
Shikha Jain
Shikha Jain
gurugram,world heritage day,UNESCO
A view of Nuh district, near Gurugram. The Gurugarm district still retains almost 44 per cent of its rural area. (Yogendra Kumar/HT PHOTO)

This week, we can prepare ourselves to celebrate World Heritage Day on April 18 by committing to contribute to Gurugram’s rural landscape. The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), the advisory body for cultural heritage sites to UNESCO, had, in 1982, established April 18 as the International Day for Monuments and Sites. This was duly approved by the UNESCO the following year — during its 22nd General Conference.

“Since then, April 18 has been a day to celebrate and promote cultural heritage, and an opportunity to raise awareness about its diversity, its relevance, how vulnerable it can be and what the needs and benefits of its conservation are,” according to ICOMOS.

Every year, ICOMOS proposes a different theme for the World Heritage Day celebrations so that heritage-promoting organisations across the world can organise events and activities around the special theme. The theme for 2019 is “Rural Landscapes” — something that is quite pertinent to the state of Haryana and what was the ancient and historic Gurugram. The Gurugram Chapter of INTACH is celebrating the day at Urusvati Museum of Folklore located amongst the farmlands, a kilometre off from the NH8 near the turn for Nuh-Tauru.

As per ICOMOS, rural landscapes are multifunctional resources. It is defined as “terrestrial and aquatic areas co-produced by human-nature interaction used for production of food and other renewable natural resources via agriculture, animal husbandry and pastoralism, fishing and aquaculture, forestry, wild food gathering, hunting, and extraction of other resources such as salt. At the same time, all rural areas have cultural meanings attributed to them by people and communities: all rural areas are landscapes”.

It is understood that ancient rural landscapes such as that of Gurugram region often possesses a rich repository of tangible and intangible heritage that is adapted with time to environmental, cultural, social, political and economic conditions. However, what we do need to retain for a long term is the balance between human activity and their environment in such areas; though Gurugram city is not an ideal example for that with its increasing urban growth.

The old residents of Gurugram and the later settlers who moved to the city, when it was transforming from a village into the millennium city in the 1990s, surely realise this increasing loss of the ambient rural landscape that existed and initially attracted them to move into this area.

In such a scenario, it is important for us to realise the ecological footprint that making of urban areas such as the Gurugram city have on previous rural zones and the irreversible changes in the rural landscapes that this footprint may bring, impacting the living environment and quality of life for the residents. All is not lost if we can still retain the existing balance of our natural heritage, environment and cultural traditions of remaining rural landscape in and around Gurugram.

The district still retains almost 44 per cent of its rural area. According to the Census of 2011, the total area of Gurugram is 333 km² — including 131.83 km² rural area and 201.39 km² urban area. And this rural area covers a total of 38 villages in the Gurgaon district, with each one having its own distinctive local culture and folklore.

Considering that the Bloomberg Study in 2019 has rated Gurugram as the most polluted city in the world, there is a serious need for us to now consider a reverse planning and put a halt to further urban growth in the area besides trying to revive and retain the rural landscape and natural features of the district that may finally support in augmenting the city environment for Gurugram.

( Shikha Jain is state convener, INTACH, Haryana Chapter, and member of the Heritage Committee under the ministries of culture and HRD. She is the co-editor of the book ‘Haryana: Cultural Heritage Guide’. She is also the director of DRONAH (Development and Research Organisation)

First Published: Apr 15, 2019 14:20 IST