The city’s civic and urban planning authorities will receive help from the Unesco in tackling problems of heritage conservation, sustainable design and restoration of decaying urban precincts.
Paolo Ceccarelli, the Unesco chair in urban and regional planning for local sustainable development, met state urban development secretary P.K. Pradhan and the chairman of the West Bengal Heritage Commission, Barun De, on Wednesday, and promised help in urban renewal projects.
“You can’t do meaningful restoration without a proper reuse strategy. We want to participate in carefully conceived intervention schemes,” the Italian, an international authority on architecture, urban planning and conservation, told Metro.
Ceccarelli, who is also the president of the International Laboratory of Architecture and Urban Design (ILA&UD), felt it was important to have a detailed framework to revive the core areas in the city instead of only investing in satellite townships.
“You can be modern without losing your soul, and a metropolis of Calcutta’s pedigree should exploit its history in the global market, unlike some Arab cities that have to create fake historical centres to draw tourists,” said Ceccarelli .
Pradhan welcomed the collaboration proposal and suggested that a working committee should be set up and an action plan formulated to begin work on heritage conservation and urban regeneration.
Italian consul-general in Calcutta Bruno Campria, on whose request Ceccarelli is in town, said all possible areas of co-operation with the state in urban heritage conservation would be explored under the aegis of the MoU between 11 Italian and four Bengal universities to be signed on November 7.
The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (Intach) will work with Unesco and ILA&UD once the initial pilot projects have been finalised.
“We are in the process of identifying potential pockets of urban regeneration in the city and will provide local inputs for the projects,” said G.M. Kapur of Intach.
“Some parts of Calcutta, like the brick-building quarters in the north, the central business district and the riverfront can become magnets to woo global tourists through informed and sensitive regeneration. Of course, we need a fool-proof master plan to get started,” he smiled.
The Italian expert, who has worked on urban regeneration projects in Delhi with Intach and in Ahmedabad with CEPT (Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology), is keen to engage one or two leading educational institutions for the urban renewal projects in Calcutta.
Ceccarelli will deliver the keynote address at a conference — Yesterday, Tomorrow, 50 Years of Urban Conservation and Innovation in Italy — on Thursday at the Rabindranath Tagore Centre, Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), followed by an exhibition focusing on urban heritage, restoration and conservation issues.