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Conservation of Cultural Heritage (Review)

Reviewed item: 

Ashok Kumar Jain. 2015.
Conservation of Cultural Heritage
Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery Publishing House
ISBN: 9789350567517

India’s historic cities and villages, gardens, water structures, forts and citadels, places of worship, tombs and memorials reflect its rich heritage. Cultural heritage also includes crafts, languages, literature, food and trade, which evolved through the history. These are the sources of identity and pride, which deserve to be carefully conserved.

With rapid changes in economy and urban growth, the built heritage is vanishing. In many cases, negligence, lack of resources, non-maintenance and natural disasters have caused decay of the heritage structures. The earthquakes in Nepal (2015), and Gujarat (2001), Kashmir (2005) and Uttarakhand (2013) resulting in serious damages to built heritage. The heritage of historic cities is also threatened by poverty as well as by economic growth and modernization.

The Ministry of Urban Development in January 2015 launched the Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY), which starts with 12 pilgrim heritage cities, namely: Ajmer, Amrawati, Amritsar, Badami, Dwaraka, Gaya, Kanchipuram, Mathura, Puri, Vellankanni, Varanasi and Warrangal. With 100 per cent central government funding, it aims at improving the quality of life through sanitation, security, tourism, heritage revitalization, livelihoods, and the retention of the city’s cultural identity. HRIDAY endeavours to bring together urban planning, economic growth and heritage conservation with a focus on livelihoods, skill development, cleanliness, security, accessibility and service delivery.

The book Conservation of Cultural Heritage by A.K. Jain addresses this concern and provides a roadmap, the tools and techniques of conservation of heritage. Like a manual, it provides a guide for identification and systematic documentation of cultural heritage and its typologies, and the development of a comprehensive framework for heritage management, planning and engineering.

According to the author, conservation is not freezing a place in time or denying development. Rather it stresses that the development has to occur in relation to the existing built heritage and in relationship to its natural context. Effective protection and management of heritage requires its integration into overall planning and development processes.

The book emphasizes that heritage conservation has to be inclusive: ethics, employment, education, ecology, empowerment, enablement and equity. Rather than being monument centric, the approach has to be at the level of settlements and neighbourhoods. Accordingly, the efforts for the conservation of heritage must address the issues of local community development.

Indian cities are at a crossroads between past and future. They should not be treated as a museum but as a vibrant, living neighbourhood. The conservation process requires a sensitive and careful approach and use of the traditional materials and methods. Conservation of Cultural Heritage provides valuable insights into the subject. It should be a useful guide for all those involved with the topic. Its flowing, simple language and more than 100 images make the book absorbing, and present a complex subject in a reader friendly manner.

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