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KARACHI: The built heritage of Karachi — referred to as ‘Historic Karachi’ — has recently been included in the list of 25 sites constituting the World Monument Watch List for 2018.

This important development would help highlight the case of Karachi’s historical sites imperilled by massive population growth and infrastructural development.

This was stated by Prof Noman Ahmed, the chairperson of the department of architecture and planning at the NED University of Engineering and Technology, while speaking to Dawn on Monday.

The list is announced every year by the World Monument Fund (WMF), a New York-based non-profit organisation dedicated to saving world’s treasured places and has so far orchestrated over 600 projects in 90 countries.

“The credit for this achievement goes to the department’s heritage cell led by Dr Anila Naeem who earlier worked extensively on the historical sites of Shikarpur,” Prof Ahmed said, adding that the listing would provide an opportunity to create public interest in the historic part of Karachi and initiate activities for its preservation.

Expert believes it will help city’s historical sites affected by population boom, infrastructural development

More than 1,200 buildings of Karachi alone, he said, were included in the government list of protected heritage before the August court order directing the government to revise the list after conducting a proper survey and scrutiny of all such premises across the province and make proper and comprehensive rules under the Heritage Act within six months.

“To my understanding the list [of protected buildings] hasn’t been nullified [by the court]. But, yes, the historical structures remain vulnerable given the fact that no rules were ever framed and now the matter is in court,” he said in reply to a question.

The biggest challenge in preservation, according to him, is to keep the heritage features intact which requires specialised architectural skills while making room for modern development.

“There are a number of strategies and lessons from other countries one can learn and replicate here.

“First of all, we need to have reassuring examples around us to create an understanding and awareness that heritage can be properly preserved. The best example in this case is of Mohatta Palace. But, not many people know about it. Access to historical sites should be easy so people could relate to and understand their history better.”

He was of the opinion that the government should give incentives to owners of heritage structures so that they would be inclined towards their preservation.

“Right now, once a site comes on the heritage list, the owner himself starts damaging the structure so nobody could raise objection over the new construction,” he said.

Some other sites included in the World Monument List are: Government House in Antigua and Barbuda; Sirius Building in Sydney, Australia; Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue in Alexandria, Egypt; Grand Theatre; Prince Kung’s Mansion in Beijing, China; Takiyyat Ibrahim al-Gulshani in Cairo, Egypt; Al-Hadba’ Minaret in Mosul, Iraq; and Post-Independence Architecture of Delhi, India.

“The sites present timely opportunities for conservation, community engagement and sustainable development,” the WMF website states.

Published in Dawn, October 24th, 2017