Is our national heritage hostage to nature?
The killer earthquake that rocked Gujarat in 2001 damaged 72 of the 214 monuments protected by the Archaeological Survey of India. The historic Rao Lakha Chattri in Bhuj was reduced to rubble while the mausoleum of Shaikh Farid is now a mass of sandstone blocks and broken ramparts.
The arch of the Golghar in Srinagar collapsed under the impact of the October 8, 2005 Kashmir temblor, which also changed the builtscape of Poonch beyond recognition.
The fickle Bay of Bengal threatens the Sun Temple of Konark with its salt and brine sediments. The abrasions and cracks on the rock faces of the sculptures are irreparable.
Is our national heritage being held hostage by natural disasters and global climate change? If the scientific community is to be believed, the threat is palpable and requires immediate intervention in the form of risk preparedness and a blueprint for disaster management.
As India makes a paradigm shift from post-disaster to pre-disaster risk management, archaeologists, climatologists, historians and conservationists from across the globe identified potential threats to monuments in a bid to link cultural heritage and disaster management for the first time at a three-day international workshop. The event, 'Risk Management of Heritage Sites and Climate Change', was organised by the India chapter of the International Council of Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), its technical wing, the International Scientific Committee on Risk Preparedness, and the National Institute of Disaster Management at the Red Fort.
Climate-related natural disasters have increased over the past 15 years. The heritage sites along the nation’s 8,000-km shoreline are all at risk.
“It is necessary to identify and quantify the risks and strategise,” said S. Dhar Chakraborty, executive director, National Disaster Management Institute.
The workshop listed 31 natural threats to heritage and suggested a three-tier mitigation: strategy, planning and technical intervention. The idea is to develop a joint risk management model for the country's heritage, pool in global expertise and use it as a manual for heritage conservation of sites the world over.