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By Pradeep Chamaria

Every year, the world observes April 18 as the World Heritage Day. Also known as The International Day for Monument and Sites, it is an internationally recognised day to raise awareness about preserving the history, diversity, and vulnerability of world heritage sites and monuments. The idea behind celebrating this day is to encourage local communities and individuals to consider the importance of cultural heritage in our lives and to promote awareness about the efforts required to protect and conserve it. 

The idea was floated on 18 April 1982 during a symposium in Tunisia by The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS). The idea was approved by the UNESCO General Conference at its 22nd session in November 1983, and since then it has been traditionally been called the World Heritage Day, and aims to celebrate the heritage of the entire human race. 

On this day, the world also aims to recognise the efforts of all involved in the reservation, e.g. architects, engineers, geographers, civil engineers, artists, and archaeologists who are involved in protection of heritage. 

Rich Cultural Past 

World Heritage Day is celebrated to spread awareness of our rich cultural diversity that our ancestors have given us, and the importance of preserving our ancient heritage. The purpose of celebrating this date is to share an important message to the younger generations to carry forward their legacy and preserve our culture through recreational activities in school. The activities could include storytelling sessions, visits to monuments and heritage sites, organising essay & speech writing competitions, drawing & poster making design, photography contests of ancient heritage monuments, conducting heritage festivals, telecasting movies with messages of culture and traditions.Theme for year 2022 – Heritage & ClimateThis year, the theme is entitled Heritage and Climate, and the stress is on the impacts of Climate Change on the Built Heritage. 

We are all aware of the importance of the issue of climate change and its impact on infrastructure, including buildings, both old and new. But while we talk about ways to build better modern day city, we often forget the existing infrastructure and also the heritage buildings.  

The theme for the current year is the best opportunity for us to draw our attention to preserve and conserve our heritage by adopting climate-resilient solutions to strengthen sustainable development. It is an opportunity to respond to questions such as how to protect the climate as well as our heritage. 

Importance of World Heritage Day in India India is immensely rich in history, nature, heritage and culture. It is one of the most vibrant and colourful country in the world. Various states have famous forts and palaces along with wildlife sanctuaries and various other monuments which attract a large number of tourists from across the globe hence it is imperative for us to save our heritage.

Howrah Bridge, Pradeep Chamaria

India with 40 UNESCO World Heritage Sites has the sixth largest number of UNESCO sites in the world. The latest additions are  Dholavira and Ramappa Temple in the ‘Cultural’ category which already has Taj Mahal, Hampi, Ajanta and Ellora Caves, Sun Temple, Sanchi, Ran Ki Vav, Hill Forts of Rajasthan, Churches and Convents of Goa, etc. 

There other two categories are Natural and Mixed. The natural heritage sites include the Western Ghats, Great Himalayan National Park, Tadoba Tiger Sanctuary, Sundarbans National Park, Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Parks, and more. 

Church in Goa, Courtesy: Pradeep Chamaria

Apart from these India has 3691 protected monuments and sites. The walled cities of Delhi, Jaipur, Ahmadabad, and other various well planned cities with architectural buildings have also found their names inscribed as World Heritage Cities. Many other smaller cities of India also have a glorious history and rich heritage sites. 

Leh palace Courtesy: Pradeep Chameria

Unfortunately, with time some of these historical buildings are fading away. Today, the empty passages of some of the great heritages that have been the pride of the country narrate a grey story of the fate that has occurred. Few are being destroyed to make way for new construction. Some left unattended are surrounded by weird calm instead of the chaotic liveliness that they have seen in past. 

Wildlife Safari, Courtesy: Pradeep Chamaria

World Heritage Day is an opportunity for India to present the objectives and activities of our heritage to the world. We have already done a lot to save and preserve our heritage.  A few monuments are well maintained as they have been converted to hotels or important Tourist sites. Govt. of India is also taking a keen interest in conserving our heritage and culture so that the future generation can witness and admire our heritage. But still a lot more has to be done. Many of the sites are being damaged and removed due to lack of resources, vandalism, and theft.

We should now try to look at the conservative efforts being followed at various sites and also look at the fact that there still is so much more to do.  The onus to conserve the rich art forms and cultural heritage lies on our shoulders our heritage is the symbol of our identity and also of our country. 

(The author is a well-known travel writer. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online.)



Author: Howard Caldwell