World heritage is the shared wealth of human kind. Protecting and preserving this valuable asset demands the collective efforts of the international community. The world heritage Day is an opportunity to acknowledge the diversity of cultural heritage that is shared by human kind. The day raises public awareness around the efforts that are required to protect and conserve world heritage, by drawing attention to its vulnerability. Each year the International Day for Monuments and Sites celebrates a different aspect of our collective heritage. The 2012 theme has been chosen to mark the 40th anniversary of the UNESCO world heritage convention which was adopted in 1972.
On 16 November 1972 the General Conference of UNESCO adopted the “Convention Concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage” – commonly known as the World Heritage Convention – . The Convention included both cultural and natural heritage in a single document, and consecrated the idea that there are properties whose significance and values exceed the boundaries of the country where they are located, and whose loss or deterioration would imply the impoverishment of the humanity as a whole. The recognition of a property to be of world heritage significance implies the awareness of a shared inheritance and common engagement for its conservation and legacy to future generations; in this sense, the Convention can be considered a tool to foster respect for cultural diversity, international cooperation and understanding, and peace among nations. In the World Heritage Day 2012, the focus is on “World Heritage and Sustainable Development: the Role of Local Communities”. ICOMOS makes a number of suggestions on how to celebrate the World Heritage Day, which include:
* Visits to monuments and sites, and restoration works, possibly with free admission;
* Articles in newspapers and magazines, as well as television and radio broadcasts;
* Hanging banners in town squares or principal traffic arteries calling attention to the day and the preservation of cultural heritage;
* Inviting local and foreign experts and personalities for conferences and interviews;
* Organizing discussions in cultural-centers, city halls, and other public spaces.
* Exhibitions (photos, paintings, etc)
* Publication of books, post-cards, stamps, posters
* Awarding prizes to organizations or persons who have made an outstanding contribution to the conservation and promotion of cultural heritage or produced an excellent publication on the subject.
* Inaugurate a recently restored monument
* Special awareness raising activities amongst school children and youth
* Promotion of “twinning” opportunities, defining areas for co-operation; exchange of speakers; organization of meetings and seminars, or the editing of joint publications.
The World Heritage Convention is considered the most successful of all the UNESCO conventions: it has been ratified by 188 States Parties, and the World Heritage List currently includes 936 properties located in 153 States Parties, which comprise 725 cultural sites, 183 natural sites and 28 mixed sites.
There are 27 world heritage Properties in India out of which 22 are cultural properties and 5 are natural properties. These include Taj Mahal, Ajanta, Elora and Elephanta Caves, Konark temple, Statue of Lord Mahavira at Mahabalipuram, Khajuraho Temples, Darjeeling Himalyan Railway, Kaziranga National Park, Koelkaro National Park, Bodhgaya, Sundarbans National Park and, Manas Wild life sanctuary among others.
Jammu and Kashmir has 5 such sites which include Wular Lake, Tso Moriri and Surinsar-Mansar Lakes. The state has at least 28 monuments and sites that bear testimony to our rich cultural heritage. These include Mughal arcade and spring at Verinag, Kartanda Sun temple, Bumzuva cave and temple, all in Anantnag district, Ancient Stupa excavated remains, Sankaragaurisvara temple, Ancient stupa, Chitya and monastery, Mosque and other ancient remains on the Wular lake Island, all in Baramula district, Fort at Akhnoor, Buddhist ancient site at Ambaran, Ancient Fort and palaces at Ramnagar, all in Jammu district, Rock cut sculpture in Kargil district, Ancient temple of Harihara at Billawar, Rock carving of Devi Riding a Loin at Basohli, Vishesvara and other cave temples at Basohli, all in Kathua district, and Buddhist monastery at Lamayuru in Leh district.
There are many more which need inclusion, like Forts at Hiranagar, Jasrota and Basohli and magnificent gate of red sandstone at Mansar Lake. Sadly baring a few, all the monuments and sites have been neglected and are crying for renovation and protection. For weather and current development paradigm are proving ruinous to them.
World heritage sites are facing severe challenges related to resources extraction and developments in their surrounding areas. “Heritage, observes Iriana Bokoya, Director General of UNESCO, “stands at the crossroads of climate change, social transformation and processes of reconciliation between peoples. Heritage carries high stakes for the identity and belonging of peoples, for the sustainable economic and social development of communities”,
Apparently, we need to strive towards the effective conservation and protection of natural and cultural heritage. While aware of the development needs at the local, regional and global levels, we need to establish and maintain a dialogue with all the stake holders and provide sustainable conservation solutions for everyone involved. For that to succeed, the current development model needs a rethink.
(The writer teaches geography at the G.D.C Kathua)