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Plan to save river heritage

Conservationists, architects, heritage commission representatives, academics and civic planners met at the British Council on Friday to discuss how to preserve the heritage of Bengal's riverside towns with a colonial past.

Sudeshna Banerjee   |   Calcutta   |   Published 07.04.18, 12:00 AM

A meeting on Hooghly heritage management at the British Council on Friday. (Bishwarup Dutta)

Calcutta: Conservationists, architects, heritage commission representatives, academics and civic planners met at the British Council on Friday to discuss how to preserve the heritage of Bengal's riverside towns with a colonial past.

The deliberations were part of the Hooghly River of Cultures Project, a collaboration of IIT Kharagpur and University of Liverpool funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council, UK, and Indian Council of Historical Research. The target: drawing up a Hooghly Heritage Management Strategy by 2020.

"We are concentrating not only on domestic built heritage but also intangible cultural heritage such as Jagaddhatri Puja that takes place on the river," said principal investigator, UK, Ian Magedera of the University of Liverpool.

Bengal's riverside towns - Barrackpore, Serampore, Chandernagore, Chinsurah and Bandel - boast of a rich heritage but have been facing rapid urbanisation.

Conservation architect Aishwarya Tipnis, who has worked in Chandernagore and Chinsurah, said most municipalities lack architects to evaluate building plans. "Engineers just do a structural assessment with little regard to aesthetics. This erodes a town's cultural identity," she said.

"The strategy we draw up needs to be sustainable as well as implementable in the long term. We looked at the challenges and possible solutions," said principal investigator, India, Jenia Mukherjee of IIT Kharagpur.

The participants discussed laws that needed to be mobilised, avenues of funding as well as ways to get over apathy of private heritage property owners towards conservation.

"Merge modernity with heritage. Do not bank simply on tourism. Think of ways to plug the need gaps of locals," said IIT Kharagpur director Partha Pratim Chakrabarti.

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