‘World Heritage City totally unprepared for natural calamities’

AHMEDABAD/VADODARA: If Ahmedabad — a World Heritage City — ever faces Kerala-like flood fury, one of the biggest casualties will be its heritage structures. This serious warning was issued by Dr Rohit Jigyasu, the president of the India chapter of the (ICOMOS), a Unesco think tank that works to conserve and protect heritage sites across the world.
Jigyasu was part of the team that had prepared the dossier that helped Ahmedabad win the prestigious title conferred by Unesco last year. But he rued the fact that the state government has done little to put in place risk-mitigation plans for its heritage in case a natural calamity strikes the city.

“As the member of the team that prepared the World Heritage City proposal for Ahmedabad, my focus was on risk assessment and mitigation plan for its heritage structures,” Jigyasu told TOI. “I had submitted a report that was a part of the proposal.”

The key guidelines proposed by Jigyasu included retro-fitting old buildings including havelis, temples, and mosques to strengthen them. “I had proposed guidelines on the steps to be taken for conserving heritage structures if any calamity strikes the city,” he said. “But the government hasn’t followed that up. I never got any call from them to discuss risk-mitigation plans which are so important now that Ahmedabad has got the World Heritage City status.”

Jigyasu warned that some of the old structures may face irreparable damage if there is an earthquake or heavy floods. “As seen in , floods can wreck havoc and weaken heritage buildings,” he said. “It is necessary to strengthen them with expert help. There has been little thought about dealing with even a fire in the narrow lanes of the Walled City that has many heritage structures.”

Jigyasu said there has to be an evacuation plan for residents too, but there is no formal training focused on heritage properties that face the worst damage during man-made or natural calamities, he said. Jigyasu had done a two-year study on heritage risk management during disasters in Ahmedabad with the National Institute of Disaster Management about five years ago.
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