World Heritage Day 2023 and our Environment

By: N. Munal Meitei
We celebrate World Heritage Day on 18th April since 1983. Theme for this year is “Heritage Changes”. The theme remind, climate justice, equity and the need for preservation of world heritages. We should save our monuments and sites with our full might; they are the most precious baggage. Heritages represent the country’s pride and strength of a nation.
It’s our profound duty to protect and preserve these priceless assets and the vulnerability of such legacy. World Heritage Day also known as International Day for Monuments and Sites, provides a timely opportunity to showcase strategies which deliver climate-resilient pathways, while advocating for inclusive transitions to low-carbon future.
This day aims to protect the ancient buildings and maintain their cultural significance for future generations and to honour everyone who works to preserve the heritages including architects, engineers, geographers, civil engineers, artists and archaeologists.
It also remind that historic monuments and sites are not just a part of our past but are also for our present and future. These sites are the human creativity, ingenuity and resilience throughout history. They tell the stories of our ancestors and help us understand who we are as a society.
World Heritage Sites are considered to be the testimony for world’s diversified cultural and natural wonders of our planet. They are also important for promoting tourism, which boost the local economies and support sustainable development.
Preserving historic monuments and sites is not an easy task. These sites are often subject to natural disasters, climate change and human activities such as tourism and urbanization. Governments, organizations and individuals are responsible for working together to protect and preserve these sites for future generations.
UNESCO plays a crucial role in preserving, exploring and managing the impacts of climate change on World Heritage. There are over 1,157 designated World Heritage sites on the planet. These sites include 218 natural wonders like the Grand Canyon and 900 cultural landmarks like the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China and 39 mixed properties. UNESCO also provides funding and technical assistance to countries to help them protect and preserve their cultural heritage.
However, World Heritage sites face a number of threats, such as climate change, natural disasters, urbanization, tourism and vandalism. Climate change is the biggest threats to historic monuments and sites worldwide. Rising sea levels, extreme weather events and increased temperatures can cause irreparable damage to these sites. Additionally, many sites are still at risk of being lost due to neglect, conflict and urbanization.
We are all aware of the importance of the issue of climate change and its impact everywhere including infrastructures and buildings, both old and new. But while we talk about the ways to build better modern day cities, we often forget the existing infrastructures and also the heritage buildings.
India is immensely rich in history, nature, heritage and culture. It is one of the most vibrant and iconic country in the world. Various states have famous forts and palaces along with wildlife parks, sanctuaries and various other monuments which attract a large number of tourists from across the globe. Manipur has also bonafide sites like the Loktak Lake with Keibul Lamjao National Park claimed as the World Heritage site.
India with 40 World Heritage Sites has the sixth largest number of UNESCO sites in the world. The latest additions are Dholavira and Ramappa Temple in the ‘Cultural’ category which already has Taj Mahal, Hampi, Ajanta and Ellora Caves, Sun Temple etc. India also has 3695 protected monuments and sites under Archaeological Survey of India.
Unfortunately, with time some of these historical buildings are fading away. Today, the empty passages of some of the great heritages that have been the pride of the country narrate a grey story of the fate that has occurred. Few are being destroyed to make way for new construction. Some left unattended are surrounded by weird calm instead of the chaotic liveliness that they have seen in past.
The country have already done a lot to save and preserve our rich heritage. A few monuments are well maintained as they have been converted to hotels or important Tourist sites. The government is taking a keen interest in conserving our heritage and culture so that the future generation can witness and admire them. But still a lot more has to be done. Many of the sites are being damaged and removed due to lack of resources, vandalism, and theft. The onus to conserve the rich art forms and cultural heritage lies on our shoulders. Our heritage is the symbol of our identity and also of our own country.
Climate change is impacting the World Heritage sites to their integrity and authenticity including the economic and social development. World Heritage properties also harbour options for society to mitigate and adapt to climate change through the ecosystem benefits. Cultural heritage, on the other hand, can convey traditional knowledge that builds resilience to leads us to a more sustainable future.
World Heritage properties serve as climate change observatories to gather and share information on applied and tested monitoring, mitigation and adaptation practices. World Heritage also helps raise awareness on the impacts of climate change on human societies and cultural diversity, biodiversity and world’s ecosystem services. Therefore on coming the World Heritage Day, let’s protect our heritages and environment for the future generation.
(The author is a Environmentalist email: nmunall@yahoo.in)

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