India asserts commitment to ensure sustainable management of historic areas

Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Kumari Selja
Yogakarta, Indonesia: The Culture & HUPA minister Kumari Selja has said India is concerned and committed to ensure sustainable management of its urban historic areas. 

Speaking at the Ministers meeting  at 5th ASEM Meet   “Managing Heritage Cities for a Sustainable Future” in  YOGAKARTA, INDONESIA today she said, India recognises quality of living of a city, satisfaction with cultural infrastructure such as concert halls, museums, libraries etc., satisfaction with public spaces including markets and pedestrian areas, satisfaction with public parks and gardens as well as beauty of streets and buildings and the attractiveness of cities towards tourists as important indicators to benchmark the governance of historic cities. She said approximately 30% of India’s one billion population lives in urban areas and the cities of India are growing at an unprecedented scale and speed. Urbanisation is taking place at an unparalleled speed throwing a challenge at the traditional historic cities. She said historic cities are yearning for a more inclusive and sustainable process of urban development.

The Minister said, the draft National Conservation Policy envisages strengthening the role of crafts people whose knowledge of building materials and traditional systems in conservation works is indispensable. The emphasis here is on sustainable livelihoods as an integral part of sustainable development. She said New legislations of the Ministry of Culture AMASR Act 2010 [Ancient Monuments and Archaeological and Remains and Sites (Amendment and Validation) Act] provides for Heritage Byelaws to be prepared for every single monument of national importance. Kumari Selja Said her country has been instrumental in supporting the preparation of the UNESCO/UN-HABITAT Toolkit on ‘Historic Districts for All – India: A Social and Human Approach for Sustainable Revitalisation’, comprising of a Manual for City Professionals. This is a powerful instrument for raising awareness and building capacity for the Urban Local Bodies and our State Governments to design and implement policies and programmes for the present and future inhabitants of city cores.

She said, an apex body – The National Monuments Authority has been set up with the aim of  introducing  new ways of sensitive planning, using tools such as ground surveys and  ‘Cultural Impact Assessment’ to ensure that  mega infrastructure and other developmental projects  do not harm the historic environment. The authority is also equipped with enforcement powers and can impose stringent penalties for violations in heritage landscape. This applies equally to private citizens and government functionaries who allow such violations to take place.

Shelja informed that the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD), Government of India and UNESCO, New Delhi Office have developed a partnership “Moving towards Heritage based urban development” to help safeguard and promote the sustainable use of India’s unique and diverse urban heritage. The project primarily aims to mainstream the concern for heritage protection and conservation, and the sustainable use of cultural and natural resources, in our ambitious Urban Development Mission viz. Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM). The objective of this Mission is the creation of economically vibrant and productive Indian heritage cities. She said the joint UNESCO-MoUD project positions heritage as important and central to urban development initiatives.  The Minister said the Indian Heritage Cities Network (IHCN)  comprising of  22 Indian heritage cities, seven French cities  and several regional and non-governmental partners, along with UNESCO, helped revise the ‘JNNURM Draft Toolkit for the Preparation of  City Development Plan’ with a special focus on heritage concerns. 

The minister asserted that India has exemplary examples of urban renewal projects within historic cities such as the urban renewal initiative between ASI and AKTC (Aga Khan Trust for Culture) in Nizammudin area. Historic cores in cities of Mumbai, Delhi, Varanasi, Hyderabad, Madurai, Mysore, Jaipur, Udaipur and many more have taken initiatives in framing heritage management plans and heritage committees for conservation and development of historic areas.
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