PRESERVING RICH HERITAGE

Despite being one of the best heritage regions of the nation the state of Jammu and Kashmir has failed to tap this potential for various purposes, courtesy the successive governments preferring to remain more involved in the political endeavours of the worst sorts leaving less scope for the welfare and development in the state, the impact of which the people of this state continue to bear even today. According to recorded history Jammu and Kashmir has nurtured more than four civilizations during the past more than five thousand years and it is really a great irony that the state has lost substantial heritage sites and structures due to government’s apathy in this regard. As such it is high time to realize the value of heritage in the society, to review the approach adopted by the successive governments that failed to deliver any commendable results on this front. The significance of heritage in the society can be well gauged from a report titled ‘Saving Our Vanishing Heritage: Safeguarding Endangered Cultural Heritage Sites in the Developing World’ that was released by Global Heritage Fund about eight years back. It illuminated five accelerating man-made threats facing global heritage sites in developing countries: development pressures, unsustainable tourism, insufficient management, looting, and war and conflict. Based on these threats, the report surveyed 500 major archaeological and heritage sites in developing countries to evaluate current loss and destruction, conservation and development. It identified nearly 200 of these sites as “At Risk” or “Under Threat,” and 12 sites were declared as “On the Verge” of irreparable loss and destruction. Although the J&K government had identified 27 new heritage sites of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh regions for preservation and listing under J&K Heritage Conservation and Preservation Act 2010 but mere declaration and announcements cannot serve any purpose unless followed with full technological expertise. It is an open secret that the Mubarak Mandi Heritage Complex in Jammu continues to be the much talked about heritage site among the people during the past few years but the results on ground continue to be confined to occasionally holding a few programmes besides a cosmetic face lift of few elevations on the compound side with substantial portions on the internal and rare side of the complex craving attention. Some of the portions of the complex continue to crumble down amidst weather vagaries especially during the rainy season. Despite huge funds sanctioned for this ambitious project the development on ground is much wanting? The Mubarak Mandi Heritage site is just one example while there are multiple heritage sites in the Valley as well as Ladakh region that stand either vanished today or else stand converted into concrete complexes in the name of renovation least bothering about the aesthetic sense of a heritage sites and structures. In this regard the state needs to emulate the policies and approach of the western nations be it England or other European nations where local authorities have set building codes that are commensurate with the cultural and civilization flavour as a result of which the people from across the world long to visit these nations to have a glimpse of the heritage sites. It is hoped that the J&K government presently headed by the Governor SP Malik will ensure that while working out development plans for cities and towns the socio-cultural dimension of heritage sites will be accorded due consideration and after thorough deliberations and discussions formulate an effective heritage plan in order to preserve the existing heritage sites for future generations.