Saving our heritage

January 31, 2014

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THE official approach to preserving heritage in Pakistan has largely been marked by negligence and apathy. It would not be wrong to say that the state and most of society are barely concerned as our heritage crumbles. Take, for example, the method which the management of the Taxila Museum has employed to clear vegetation around the Sirkap World Heritage Site. Instead of hiring landscapers to prune the shrubbery or using other non-destructive methods, those in charge of the area, as reported in this paper, have resorted to setting the vegetation on fire to clear the land. This has resulted in damage being caused to some of the walls of the ancient site. Unesco officials say they are organising a programme to familiarise archaeologists with methods of managing vegetation at ancient sites; let us hope such methods become part of procedure in order to help preserve the monuments at Sirkap.

Meanwhile, the Sindh government is planning to kick off the Sindh Festival at the 5,000-year-old site of Moenjodaro on Saturday. The festival, described as a “cultural coup”, is being spearheaded by PPP head Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and seeks to raise awareness about Pakistan’s culture, particularly that of Sindh. However, some citizens have raised concerns about possible damage that may be caused to Moenjodaro by the festival organisers. In a letter to Unesco’s Islamabad office, the citizens have said digging was being carried out by “non-technical staff” and the work at the ancient site could “destroy already weakened ruins and structures”. Also, in reply to a petition regarding the opening ceremony at the site, the Sindh High Court on Thursday ordered the provincial culture department to ensure no harm comes to Moenjodaro’s archaeological treasures. The organisers’ intentions of preserving and promoting Sindh’s culture may indeed be good. Yet good intentions alone — without being backed by proper planning — may end up doing more harm than good. Already Moenjodaro has suffered from the elements and improper restoration work; utmost care must be taken to preserve what is left of this marvel of ancient urban planning. Sindh’s rich culture needs to be promoted. It should be done in a sustainable manner.