Competitive Exams: Current Affairs 2011: Developing Heritage Cities

Developing Heritage Cities

  • UNESCO's move to create Indian Heritage Cities Network (IHCN), a programme to recover the heritage value of cities is a commendable initiative.

  • So far, city development and investment plans have bypassed integrating heritage conservation with urban development. For instance, the Master Plan for Varanasi (1991 − 2011), one of the ancient cities with a unique urban design and impressive river-front architecture, has designated only two per cent of the land under use as heritage area. The emphasis is always on the new areas. As a result, the peripheries develop rapidly, leaving the old urban core to struggle for even basic services. A case in point is the walled city of Delhi, Shahjahanabad, now a notified slum with crumbling house stocks.

  • The IHCN decision to work actively with the local bodies to reinvent old cities as worthy places of living is an effective strategy. However, this partnership should go beyond producing conventional development plans that mainly address aesthetic concerns.

  • The priority should be to improve the housing stock and the urban services without affecting the stakes of the less-privileged inhabitants.

  • Another challenge would be to fund residents to retrofit their old houses.

  • Targeted credit with affordable interest rates and allowing for limited commercial use in housing area could be other ways of mobilising funds.

  • Redeveloping old cities without impairing their historic significance may appear challenging but, as experience elsewhere shows, it is eminently feasible.

Courtesy: The Hindu and Times of India