Crumbling heritage

Published September 17, 2022

THE failure to limit flood damage to Mohenjo Daro despite warnings from the heritage site’s administration is an unfortunate but apt metaphor for the attitude of the government towards both conservation and disaster mitigation. The archaeology department has now raised the alarm, saying the heritage site — that was discovered 100 years ago in 1922 — would be removed from the World Heritage List if urgent restoration work is not carried out. The flood damage to the site had been highlighted by its curator, who in a letter said that the departments of irrigation, roads, highways and forest had a critical role in protecting the site as landlords and farmers had inserted pipes and made cuts in canals to release water towards the site. Sadly, these departments failed to act, and rainwater flooded the ancient settlement. Even though the curator had approached the irrigation department, there was no response. The walls of one of the world’s oldest preserved archaeological sites are now crumbling.

The letter written by the curator and the inaction of the officials reflect both a cry for help and the apathy towards protecting heritage in the country. The famed heritage site gets international attention and is a source of revenue for the government, and for locals, because of tourism. Unfortunately, once again we are turning to the world for help after officials failed to do their part. Although Unesco has donated $350,000 for repair works at heritage sites including Mohenjo Daro, the amount is a drop in the ocean when compared to the figure of $45m that will reportedly be required to cover the cost of repairs. The Sindh government must demand an explanation from officials of the abovementioned departments regarding their failure to act. Given the extent of rainfall and flooding across the country, it may have been difficult to prevent any damage from occurring, but the scale of it could certainly have been limited if government officials had responded in time to the curator’s call.

Published in Dawn, September 17th, 2022

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