Heritage conservation is very much important for a nation for many reasons. It is not only preservation of historic evidence but retaining the cultural significance, the intrinsic value of areas, environments, monuments, buildings and living communities.
We are trustees for those who will come after us. Heritage artefacts are not ours to destroy as they belong partly to those who built them and partly to all mankind who follow us.
Heritage artefacts exist as a witness to the continuity of a society and provide identity to a city. It belongs to the whole humanity, testifies to our achievements and says where we stand in the time line of civilisation. These are a means of our national pride.
The dynamics of rapid urbanisation, shifting economic activities, rising cost of urban land are exerting serious pressure on the heritage artefacts of both man-made and natural origin of more than 400 years old city of Dhaka that has resulted in the identity crisis.
People are generally unaware of the value of heritage artefacts and when measured in terms of monetary value in the existing context, they go for more rewarding options.
To conserve them, we must create economic value for heritage conservation and also we must work with the people, it should be a participatory act and it should be a win-win-situation.
In the sixties, the general assembly of the United Nations had adopted a resolution supporting the development of tourism as a means of encouraging economic growth and recommended that historic sites and monuments be preserved as tourist’s attraction. In many countries, heritage tourism is the main source of job and revenue earning.
We have conserved a very negligible part of the huge stock of our heritage artefacts and we need to do lot more. We must work aggressively to conserve our heritage for the sake of retaining of our identity as a nation and at the same time we may make it a source of revenue earning.
Dhaka is more than 400 years old as a capital city; it is older than Kolkata and even older than America as a whole. Naturally, there are thousands of artefacts and sites deserving conservation.
Many artefacts and sites are demolished or destroyed in the meanwhile but still if we can act now and bring the remaining artefacts in the planning and design framework we can recover our identity to a reasonable extant. You know, Dhaka was once called ’Venice of the east’, ’city of mosques’ or ’city of festivities’ these tangible and intangible attributes revolved round man-made or natural heritage. We have lost most of it but with appropriate strategies these can be recovered.
However, any listing requires a lot of researched documentation assigning values, evidence-based data and logic to establish the list.
Both DoA and RAJUK listing have merit but are journalistic in nature, requiring more studies by experts to finalise the list. Depending on the value assigned the number in the list may vary. To know the exact number of artefacts and sites we need a systematic research and investigation.
The governments are not on the right track in conserving our heritage sites. Here right people are not in the right places.
Whatever little effort is there is not coordinated or authentic. Whatever has been listed so far is not conserved or managed properly. May be partly it is due to resource constraints, but serious commitment is more important.
Conservation measures of heritage sites are different for each site in different considerations.
At the macro level, firstly we must go for a policy decision of whether we will conserve our heritage or not? Then, whatever infrastructure, resources and tools we have for the heritage conservation must be brought under a framework. For overall coordination a constitutional ’heritage commission’ with conservation architects, archaeologists, social scientist and members of civil society engaged in conservation efforts may be constituted to oversee the total spectrum of heritage conservation.
At micro level, on site conservation efforts should be holistic in nature and must start with thorough documentation of conservation artefact, next is to conserve the artefact and finally have a comprehensive maintenance and management plan for conserved artefact.
In a nutshell, a heritage / architectural conservation must look into the following. The condition of a building must be recorded before any intervention. Historic evidence must not be destroyed, falsified or removed. Any intervention must be the minimum necessary. Any intervention must be governed by unswerving respect for the aesthetic, historical and physical integrity of cultural property. All methods and materials used during treatment must be fully documented. A management and maintenance plan should be formulated.
Finally I want to say that we have very rich history and rich heritage in Dhaka and elsewhere of the country. If we can conserve and maintain them it will give us huge opportunities even financially.
It is also possible to earn foreign donation if needed for restoring and conserving the heritage as this heritage are important for human being. This donation would depend on documentation and presentation.
So this is the high time conserve the heritage as thousands of heritage still in the country as many disappeared.