Heritage Education in India

Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage
 


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Heritage Alerts
September 2017

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NOW, HERITAGE UNDER SMART CITY AMBIT

While the Smart City Mission has long broadcast its ambition to take a step into the future, it appears to have an eye on the past as well. Now, officials have decided to include preservation as an element of this project, and during a three-day-long conference organised at the Bharatiya Vidyapeeth Deemed University in the city, brainstormed the term Smart Heritage to be part of the Smart City Cell, with the aim to promote and conserve the city’s heritage to attract more tourists. Following this, heritage experts also expressed that this new emphasis may help resolve issues faced by locations of historic importance. Pune Smart City Cell CEO Dr Rajendra Jagtap confirmed, “Earlier, the cell had four elements (traffic, transport, solid waste management and water supply). Now, we have decided to add more elements in this list, including health, education and heritage tourism. In the initial phase, we will focus on the technology aspect of these, as also lay stress on marketing for heritage tourism. We will be looking into knowledge- based aspects, like uploading information on our website and a mobile application to help visitors coming in to the city.” While the budget allocation for this task has not yet been assigned, shared Jagtap, it is to be planned later this week. Weighing in from an expert’s perspective, INTACH Heritage Academy principal director Naveen Piplani said, “A Smart City project is incomplete without the incorporation of heritage into it. This new move could help keep heritage alive, as also increase knowledge among the masses over time. Smart Heritage will help promote our existing legacy with the help of technology; e-management of sites of historic importance and mobility in old areas, a matter of concern today, could be sorted to a great extent.” Experts also believe the inclusion of heritage into the Smart City Mission will cast a spotlight on historic sites that are badly in need of conservation and revive them, such as the heritage gallery on Ghole Road and the Lal Mahal in Kasba Peth. Sharvey Dhingra, co-convenor for INTACH Pune, said, “There are many sites in and around Pune that need the immediate attention of the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) and other bodies for conservation. Out of approximately 250 sites of historic importance listed by PMC, only seven have been worked upon. The new initiative could also help restore sites like the Nageshwar Temple in Somwar Peth, the old stone building of the city post office, Kedareshwar Temple in Kasba Peth, and more, all of which are in a deteriorating condition.” A participant in the recent conference, Ashwini Pethe, who is the joint managing director of the Pune Biennale Foundation, told Mirror, “Without taking along our heritage and history, the progress of any city is incomplete. With this inclusion into the Smart City project, there will be prominent changes and noticeable improvement in heritage tourism.”

- http://punemirror.indiatimes.com/pune/civic/now-heritage-under-smart-city-ambit/articleshow/60297650.cms, Sep 1, 2017

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Stone inscriptions unravel lesser-known narratives of Bengaluru's history

The Excel sheet is filled with colours green, yellow and red. The end count says: 41 intact, 17 not traceable, 04 destroyed. This one sheet of inventory, as PL Udaya Kumar calls it, represents his relentless search for stone inscriptions that tell a different tale of Bengaluru. Two months ago, Kumar was one among the many grey-collared engineers of the IT city. That is, until the history buff came across a stone inscription near his Rajajinagar home. It narrated the history of a neighbouring village called Kethmaranahalli, which was gobbled up by an exploding Bengaluru more than a decade ago. Kumar was intrigued by the date 1300 AD, which made the village a full two centuries older than Bengaluru and its founder Kempegowda. “I set out on this self-funded documentation of the 200-odd inscriptions strewn across Bengaluru,“ said Kumar, a Bengalurean who claims that he got to know his city , its people and their stories of their evolution “inside out“ only after making sense of historical inscriptions. Kumar's ambitious project is only 30% complete now. While the engineer intends to eventually hand over his online documentation -photographs and research notes from epigraphic texts -to government officials, Kumar is unsure if the inscriptions would be intact until then.Most of his searches found heritage stones drowning among footpaths, construction debris, garbage, matts, temples, private homes and apartment complexes. They have survived the onslaught of development, changing borders and booming infrastructure, but will vanish if not protected soon. Sample this: An 1308 AD Kannada inscription about a land grant made by the chief of farmers during the Hoysala rule is being used to line a roadside drain alongside a few other veeragallus (hero stones).Another 1508 AD Telugu inscription, a territory marker for the land belonging to Vira Narasinga Raya, the brother of Vijayanagara king Krishnadevaraya, lies unprotected in Marathahalli, on a road that sees heavy traffic flow. Kumar states that psychological fear is what protects most of these abandoned stones. “People do not want the curses or punishments mentioned for the stone's destroyer to be transferred to them,“ he says. If only these inscriptions were protected and their contents documented, he continues, we can redraw historic timelines to gain new insight about the city. The most recent excavations conducted by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) tell us how exactly inscriptions can change conventional historical narrative. The Halmidi inscription dated at 450 CE (currently preserved in the Government Museum) is considered as the oldest usage of the Kannada script. However, according to ASI officials, an engraving unearthed in Talagunda village of Shivamogga last week is 70 years older than Halmidi. While that discovery is being studied, a 10th century Ganga dynasty hero stone with striking resemblance to the Bengaluru inscription that first spoke of a battle in a place called 'Bengaluru' was found near the Roerich and Devika Rani estate in Tataguni. “Almost 85% of these excavations have been made in the past 50 years,“ says historian Prof S Settar of the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS). “The challenge is that these findings and their subsequent documentation and publication are highly scattered. It becomes difficult even for academicians and scholars to access and make sense of them.“ To make these works intelligible and accessible to the next generation, Settar has been on a mission for the past 15 years. He is classifying inscriptions according to a timeline with details of how words and contexts have evolved over the centuries. His work, published in eight volumes by the Vishwa Kannada Sammelana, will be out this December. Settar, however, cautions that just because their meanings have been translated on paper, it does not mean one ignores the stone structures. “Texts are just derivations. Inscriptions are a direct source of information of what happened and much more. They should not be undermined at any cost.“ While popular perception is that inscriptions talk only about obvious things like dynasties and dates, historians believe that they also throw light on religious practices, social structures and ecology .“At face value, one might conclude that some of these `run-of-the-mill' inscriptions had no great historical information. But, in fact, they help us paint a picture of the past. There are things you can learn even about food and agricultural habits,“ says Meera Iyer, co-convenor, Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH). Iyer explains how etchings in Ajanta and Pitalkhora depicted how early Buddhist caves were built largely with donations from people like carpenters and oilmen, while a few centuries later, it was royalty that largely donated. “Who knows what new tools might be developed (in the future) that might help new information from old inscriptions come to light,“ Iyer continues. “There may be clues waiting to be unravelled depending on where, how and which direction in a landscape something is placed.“ Harini Nagendra, professor of sustainability at Azim Premji University , agrees with Iyer. Her 2016 book `Nature in the City' studied a changing Bengaluru through an ecological lens. Ancient inscriptions in and around 10 km of BBMP boundaries were her research tools. “I gained immense insight about the topography of the city . Like how the earliest settlements in Bengaluru were located in the flatbeds of the East and it is only due to lack of space during the Hoysala rule (12th to 14th century AD) that they extended to hilly areas in the West, which we call Malnad today ,“ she says. Near the Agara Lake, Nagendra found inscriptions talking about farmers being granted rights to irrigate land in exchange for lake maintenance, and near Kanakapura, stones talked about man-animal conflicts or hunting expeditions. Some spoke of the 75 villages that existed even before Kempegowda `founded' Bengaluru in 1537. Almost all engravings described wetlands, trees, lakes and wells as signs of a place's prosperity. This brings up the question of how these inscriptions can be preserved so that the future has a clear view of the past. Iyer suggests that educational institutions nearest to a particular stone could 'adopt' the artefact and be given informal responsibility of its protection. Preservation and technological interventions, however, are not happening at a good pace. As Nagendra puts it: “While historians, academicians, epigraphists and scholars join hands to preserve these inscriptions, there is need for more concerted government attention and effort."

- http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/fulfil-climate-vows-india-to-rich-nations/articleshow/60319804.cms, Sep 1, 2017

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Retired curator finds hero stones

A retired curator of the Government Museum, Vellore stumbled upon a treasure trove of antiquities from Yelagiri gramam near Tirupattur. It included two hero stones and a merchant guild stone. M. Gandhi, the former curator along with R. Mani, retired conservation assistant from the Archaeological Survey of India visited the village earlier last month (August). The village is located on the foothills of Yelagiri. “S. Chinnathambi, retired superintending engineer, Public Works Department asked me to study the antiquities in his village. We studied the temples and archaeological objects for three days. We found two hero stones, one merchant guild stone, a nagini stone and a damaged Tamil inscription belonging to Vijayanagar King Devaraya,” he said. In the three-and-a-half-foot tall hero stone, a warrior is seen wielding a bow and a dagger. Two of his enemies, whom he had attacked, are seen fallen around him. ‘Linga,’ ‘nandi,’ crescent moon, sun have been depicted on the top of the hero stone. On the basis of the style, Mr. Gandhi said this hero stone might belong to the 9th century AD. A stone featuring slaying of a tiger has been erected on the edge of an irrigation well in the village. In this stone, a warrior holds a bow in his right hand, while his left hand stabs on the head of a tiger that had attacked him. The animal is depicted as biting the hero’s left thigh, and warrior has been portrayed in full action of slaying the beast. Based on the style, the stone could belong to the 11th century AD, he said. Alongside the tiger slaying stone is a merchant guild stone. On the face of the stone, Goddess Sridevi is depicted in a seated pose with her two hands holding lotus flowers. A swan, horse, bow and five types of musical instruments find place on the stone. Apart from this, Mr. Gandhi and Mr. Mani also found an image of Tirthanakara housed in a small shed-like structure near an abandoned well. He noted that the villagers worshipped this sculpture. At Chennarayaperumal Temple in the village, the inscription of Kulothunga Chola I was seen in the plinth, while another temple, Malayathamman Temple (Saptamatrika Shrine) has late Chola age - nearly 11th or 12th century - images of seven mothers, he added.

- http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/retired-curator-finds-hero-stones/article19595753.ece, Sep 1, 2017

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Archival records of city to be available in digital form

People who wish to have a peek into the rich cultural heritage of the national Capital can readily do so as the records of Delhi Archives are going to be available in digital form and be just a click away. The Delhi Archives has nearly 10 crore pages of archival records and as part of the first phase of the project, which was inaugurated today by Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, four crore archival pages will be digitised and microfilmed in around 30 months. “It is a unique project of the government and perhaps the first of its kind in the world under which a large number of archival records will be digitised and microfilmed,” Sisodia, who also hold the portfolio of Art and Culture said. Under the project -- Digitisation and Microfilming of Archival Records -- the four crore pages will be digitised and microfilmed in 30 months with a cost of Rs 25.40 crore, said the minister in a statement issued by the government. "With this the government also aims to encourage appreciation of archival heritage and enable the public to have an access to the records with a click of a mouse," added Sisodia. A repository of non-current records of the government of Delhi, the Delhi Archives has a collection of records from year 1803 to 1990 and other major historic episodes, such as the trial of last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar, declaration of Delhi as capital by the British in 2011 and acquisition of private land thereafter, photos of freedom fighters, old heritage structures, archaeological sites of the city and so on. The records of “farmans and sanads of Mughal ruler Shah Alam; records of the First War of Independence, 1857; land acquisition records for the Lutyens' Zone; infrastructure development record of British era such as establishment and expansion of railway lines, establishment of electricity department, growth of education, telephone. Besides having records of major heritage buildings in Delhi such as the Legislative Assembly, Metcalfe House, Ludlow Castle, and Commissioner's Office. This is not all. The Archives treasure also has old maps and plans of Delhi, gazette of governments of India, Punjab and Delhi, records of freedom fighters of Delhi, CID and Waqf Board records, maintenance of internal security records, conviction records of Central Jail, Tihar, and property registration records for the period 1870-1990. The Delhi Archives also houses 300–400 years old manuscripts on Ayurveda, medicine and religion. Instituted in 1972 with the objective to preserve the archival heritage of the historic city, it is responsible for preservation of the archives and making them available.

-http://www.tribuneindia.com/news/delhi/archival-records-of-city-to-be-available-in-digital-form/460335.html, Sep 1, 2017

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Reclaiming our Heritage- A Gothic-style dargah for a Sufi who didn't speak

It is a microcosm in its own right, functioning within gateways and scores of small and large arches. With a heritage award-winning unique sanctum at the centre, it is known as the final resting place of a revered Sufi who is said to not have uttered a single word so as to avoid confrontation. It also a unique blend of Islamic and Gothic architecture. Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Nampally, only a stone's throw from the political hotbed of Darussalaam, is the Dargah Hazrat Shah Khamosh. It was on account of its architectural features and remarkable upkeep that it was awarded the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (Intach) award. "The internal arcade of the dargah has classic Gothic arches. Gothic architecture has been extensively used in churches.

It was a time when the St George's Church in Abids was constructed. Therefore, the influences are clear. Further, it is my belief that both Islamic and European architecture have the same root and are derived from Graeco-Roman architecture," says Intach co-convener Sajjad Shahid. The dargah was built in the late 1800s, a time when European influence began to be witnessed in Hyderabad architecture. Drawing rooms and living rooms, primarily a European feature, became a part of homes of those with some means. Experts say that since the complex was constructed in the same era, it is most likely that those involved in designing the building brought in these elements.The crown of arches on the outer arcade have motifs which are visibly European.

According to dargah mutawalli and sajjada nashin Syed Ali Akber Nizamuddin Hussaini, the complex was constructed soon after the death of Syed Moinuddin Hussaini, popularly known as Hazrat Shah Khamosh, in 1288 AH, which corresponds to the 1872 CE. The dome of the sanctum was constructed by Sir Asman Jah, one of the important nobles of the Paigah family. "This date is mentioned on the dome. The dargah complex was built by Hazrat Syed Mohammed Hussaini.Saalu Bai, one of the wives of the fifth Nizam Afzal-ud-Daula, too was in volved in the construction," he says. But how did the title, Shah Khamosh, come into being? Hussaini offers an explanation: "Syed Moinuddin Hussaini is called Hazrat Shah Khamosh because he spoke little. He was working at the langar when he had a difference of opinion with his peerbhai (brother in faith).He brought this to the attention of murshid Hafiz Mohammed Musa Manakpuri, who advised him "Tum khamosh hojao" (maintain a dignified silence). The other explanation is that Khamosh was the name he used in his poetry."

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/hyderabad/reclaiming-our-heritage-a-gothic-style-dargah-for-a-sufi-who-didnt-speak/articleshow/60373246.cms, Sep 6, 2017

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10 heritage structures identified for restoration

Ten heritage structures have been identified in the city for restoration and, of them plan of action drawn up for two, Municipal Commissioner M. Hari Narayanan has said. At a meeting with stake-holders on heritage structures, he said taking up work on restoration of the two structures was getting delayed because of time taken for getting technical experts. Debasish Naik, expert, gave a presentation on the effort that had gone into getting Unesco Heritage City recognition for Ahmedabad.

Smart City consultant Vishal Kundra, APTDC executive director Sriramulu Naidu, Assistant Director, Archaeology, K. Chittiababu and representatives of Intach participated in the meeting. , As Reported By Hindu.

- https://www.nyoooz.com/news/visakhapatnam/909878/10-heritage-structures-identified-for-restoration/, Sep 6, 2017

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DIGITAL INDIA TO TRANSFORM TOURISM

Are you having trouble as a foreign visitor, negotiating your way around India? Just dial 1363, till date the most detailed tourist helpline in 12 languages. Get an e-ticket for the Taj before leaving your home country and spare yourself the long queue. In fact, junk the audio guide. Your mobile can now become a combined Audio Visual guide with venue-specific barcodes encapsulating complete information. And if you still need the human touch, you can dial a "tourist friend." Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Digital India is quietly changing the travel experience for both domestic and international travellers. How will you avoid unsavoury experiences? Just sign up for the new tourism website that has authenticated reviews, how-tos, services, prices, comparables and certified experientials to make your discovery of India an indelible, not just an incredible experience. Union Minister of State for Tourism and Culture Mahesh Sharma, who will be launching the website on September 27, is planning a slew of measures to e-enable and e-empower the tourist. Not without reason. While worldwide, the growth of tourism has been 4.6 per cent, in India it has been 17.3 per cent for the corresponding period. "Yes the numbers are up. Last year we had shown a growth of 14 per cent.

This year, the number has gone up to 17.3 per cent. This is the highest in recent years," Sharma told The Pioneer. With Prime Minister Modi emphasising tourism as a growth driver and a key component of Brand India, Sharma is backing it up with initiatives. "The 1363 helpline in 12 languages is a unique effort. It is available nowhere in the world. You may find the local language and English but here we have a mix of languages spoken by tourists. So there is an ease of experience. We have made e-ticketing for 116 monuments where you do not need to stand in a queue. Now you can start from your hotel or even your country with the e-ticket for that particular monument. There is a barcode chart accessible on your mobile that has complete information on a site or organisation," he said.

The idea is to help the traveller move around on his own without relying on second-hand information. The tourist police are now going to be complemented with Paryatak Mitra or tourist facilitators. "We are inducting ex-Armymen for the purpose and we hope this will help us ensure a sense of safety," the Minister said. The new Ministry website, which is proposed to be launched on World Tourism Day, will be a single-window delivery platform that collates every bit of information on India.

"As an interactive window, you can reach hotels, get a lowdown on natural sights, be it mountains, deserts, wildlife, snow. Any query related to other websites on tourism will also be linked and answered here. You can say it is a one-stop shop compendium." However, a major part of the website will be devoted to medical tourism. "Medical tourism has been growing by almost 25 per cent over the last two years. There is a huge potential but there have been complaints about mishandling of visiting patients, financial irregularities and misdemeanours by touts. We have taken these up very seriously and are now standardising practices through the Medical and Wellness Tourism Board. Visitors can now register on a portal and get complete and transparent information about medical treatment, services and rates provided by our hospitals and wellness institutions.

We are providing facilitators for a set fee. The idea is to guarantee value for money, quality and efficiency in services," said Sharma. As part of ensuring a feel-good experience, the Tourism Ministry is working closely with the Surface Transport Ministry to meet infrastructural issues like connectivity, cleanliness, safety and wayside amenities along highways connecting tourist destinations. Coming up are two more spiritual circuits, the Tirthankar and Sufi trails. While the first is intended to guide Jain pilgrims, the latter is intended to highlight the inclusive philosophy of India. As the Minister said, "So far the emphasis has been on Amir Khusro and Nizamuddin Auliya. But there are Sufi shrines like Ajmer and many more which are integral to our consciousness. We are tying them up through these circuits to highlight our spiritual traditions." Insisting that he was not directly selling out ITDC properties but giving them out on a long lease basis to verified hotel industry players, Sharma said the hotels retained by the Government are in for an overhaul.

"We propose to revamp Ashoka and Samrat in a big way so that they are at par with other private hotels," he said. Sharma is also linking culture to a holistic tourist experience rather than just tailgating it. "Culture is intangible. We have proposed that all our cultural activities should be linked to a tourist experiential. We propose that anybody who visits Delhi or any of the nearby places, where our organisations and institutions are situated, drop in at a hub as part of his itinerary. A tourist to Delhi should watch a play at the National School of Drama, attend an artist workshop at the Lalit Kala Akademi and so on. In fact, our website is listing all cultural organisations and their schedules. This way we can ensure that they buzz around the year," Sharma said. Meanwhile, work on the culture mapping of India is on full throttle. "We have 6,20,000 villages with folk artistes and performers.

Now to give them a platform we have launched this scheme for Rs 477 crore to be completed in three years. We propose to identify and document all artisans and artistes, their heritage and skill set. We hope to register them. Once registered, we will even hold competitions to encourage talent. Once the document is ready, patrons and event organisers, both at home and abroad, can have access to that database," the Minister said, describing a one of its kind attempt at sustaining living heritage.

- http://www.dailypioneer.com/todays-newspaper/digital-india-to-transform-tourism.html, Sep 6, 2017

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Intach worries for trees in future 'Smart City'

Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (Intach) has expressed concern that the plans for Smart Cities will cause increased construction and destruction of existing wildernesses. Plans for the development of these cities focus on construction and infrastructure at the expense of natural landscapes, and could work to undermine commitments the nation has made at international fora like the Paris Climate Change Summit of 2015, where over 190 nations agreed on plans to mitigate global climate breakdown. There are four cities from Rajasthan in the 109-city Smart Cities list - Kota, Udaipur, Ajmer and Jaipur. Intach's Kota chapter has drawn up an elaborate map of existing green cover within municipal limits. All natural landscapes, clusters of trees, sacred groves and even old trees of considerable girth have been listed, by a team under the leadership of botanist Krishnendra Nama. The document will be presented to the municipal commissioner and collector, so that awareness is generated about the richness of natural life within city limits that must not be sacrificed to any 'Smart' plan.

Hari Singh Palkiya of Intach, Rajasthan said, "The talk has all been about civil engineering and contractors. We are concerned that natural heritage, which also serves as natural carbon sinks, will be sacrificed. The plan to erect more buildings and widen roads could come at the cost of tree cover. We could add much more concrete, plastic and electronic waste.

This will cause a spike in temperature and only go towards worsening global warming." Recently, a Hindi newspaper pointed out that erecting a concrete platform for taking selfies near Ajmeri Gate, Jaipur, as planned under the Smart City effort would choke traffic even more. The ill-considered plan was later dropped. News website Scroll.in reported only days ago that the Bureau of Indian Standards was forced to shelve its efforts to chart out precise standards for declaring a city 'Smart'. Since 2015, when the Narendra Modi government first announced the scheme, BIS had been working on drawing up precise standards for measuring Smart City outcomes that would involve 46 core and 47 supportive indicators, including economy, environment, health, education, energy, governance, transport, safety and shelter, besides levels of pollution, energy consumption, employment and infant mortality. The urban development ministry, however, was uncomfortable with the attempt at precision and threw its weight behind a more fuzzy "liveability index" that serves no purpose other than to rank all cities already declared 'Smart' by the government.

- http://punemirror.indiatimes.com/pune/civic/now-heritage-under-smart-city-ambit/articleshow/60297650.cms, Sep 8, 2017

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IIT-Madras to study ‘structural distress’ in President Palace

The National Centre for Safety of Heritage Structures (NCSHS) in IIT-Madras is working on an important assignment. Its engineers have been roped in to investigate the cause of ‘structural distress’ encountered by the majestic Rashtrapati Bhavan, official residence of President Ram Nath Kovind. While the Delhi chapter of the Indian Nati­o­nal Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) is preparing a comprehensive conservation management plan (CCMP), the NCSHS of IIT-M has been entrusted with the job of diagnosing st­r­u­c­t­ural problems and finding solutions while keeping the heritage property intact. Arun Menon, Associate Professor, Structural Engineering Laboratory, IIT-Madras, told Express, “We will be conducting a detailed structural analysis of the Rashtrapati Bhavan and our inputs will be used by the INTACH to prepare the CCMP. This is the first such exercise being carried out in 86 years. We have already conducted non-line­ar tests on portions of the Presidential pala­ce. For instance, we have been examining the behaviour of the central dome. We have unreinfo­rced masonry, reinforced masonry and rein­forced concrete layors.

So, we have three layers acting together and there is structural distress; we tried to understand where it came from. We have done some non-linear analysis and the initial test results indicated why cracking happened. There are also problems with sunshades,” he explained. Menon said the institute has already submitted the interim report of the analysis carried out during previous Presidency. “Now, we will be carrying out tests on left-out portions and submit a detailed report. The Central Public Words Department (CPWD), which is the caretaker of the Rashtrapati Bhavan, will be executing the CCMP. Though Rashtrapati Bhavan is a single unified complex, for pragmatic reasons it was decided to break the project in two phases - first the precincts and then the main building of Rashtrapati Bhavan. In 2015, in the first phase of CCMP, two clock towers in Schedule ‘A’ and Schedule ‘B’ areas of Rashtrapati Bhavan (heritage structures built by Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1924 and 1925 respectively) were restored. Restoration work of both the clock towers was done by INTACH while repair of clocks was done by IIT, Delhi. Now, the focus is on the main building, sources said. Built as a residence for the Viceroy during British rule, Rashtrapati Bhavan is the second largest residence for any head of State in the world, next only to the Quirinal Palace, Rome, Italy.

It took almost 17 years for the construction of this huge monument. Its construction started in 1912 and ended in 1929. Now, the 86-year-old building is showing signs of deterioration. The structure includes 700 million bricks and 3.5 million cubic feet (85,000 m³) of stone, with only minimal usage of steel. It has 355 decorated rooms and a floor area of 200,000 square feet and is consisting of four floors.

The British architect Sir Edwin Landseer Lutyens was the archiect. Working with UNESCO to restore monuments in Myanmar IIT-Madras is also officially collaborating with UNESCO and providing structural inputs as part of a pilot project in Bagan in Myanmar. “Bagan is an archaeological zone where there are about 3,200 monuments of which 398 monuments have been damaged in the earthquake. We are looking at unique vault constructions and some of these structures are retrofitted and strenghtened with reinforced concrete after massive earthquake in 1975. It is a global effort with partners from different parts of world, but the conservation plan is being prepared by an Indian company and we are working with UNESCO,” he said.

- http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/tamil-nadu/2017/sep/07/iit-madras-to-study-structural-distress-in-president-palace-1653538.html, Sep 8, 2017

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Preserving our vanishing tribes, their heritage, language and wisdom

The breathtaking Nilgiris are home to a number of indigenous tribes, one of which is Toda. Unfortunately, the once thriving tribe has fewer than 1,000 members today. Based on the yardstick set by our modern education system, these tribesmen and women are considered illiterate and backward. However, one has to visit their homes, interact with them and see their craft to truly understand the depth of their knowledge, art, traditions and sensibilities. The Toda tribe is largely dependent on buffalo herding and embroidery for its livelihood. Its members are incredibly skilled artisans known for the red-and-black embroidery on white fabrics that has even earned them a GI (geographical indication) tag. They live sustainable lives, in harmony with nature where all their resources are available. The Toda tribals have their own language, which does not have a script. Over the last century, their numbers have been dwindling. The sharp decline in their population is largely related to the decline in agriculture land, much of which has been lost of afforestation. With their dwindling numbers, their art, craft and traditions are facing a slow death.

If not preserved, the day is not far when their unique embroidery, for instance, is lost forever. The Todas are an extremely closed community, barely connected to the rest of the world and, thus, deprived of the opportunities connectivity offers. They are not alone in leading marginalized and excluded lives. Overall, Scheduled Tribes account for 8.6% of India’s population, according to the 2011 Census. If we focus on language alone, almost every indigenous tribe speaks its own language or dialect. In fact, according to the People’s Linguistic Survey of India, as many as 780 different languages are spoken and 86 different scripts are used in the country. However, only 22 of them are recognized by the government as scheduled languages. What is even more disappointing is that India has lost nearly 250 languages in the last half century, and 196 more have been declared endangered by UNESCO. As many as 120 of these 196 languages are spoken in the North-East. With most of these languages spoken by tribes and lacking a script, it has been particularly difficult to preserve them. However, digital media allows for their documentation in audio-visual formats now. Simply recording audio or video of folk songs/folk tales in different languages can help preserve not just the language/dialect but also the folk culture. In the same manner, the traditional knowledge about sustainable living, medicines, farming and architecture that tribals store in their memories can also be documented for preservation and dissemination. This is what motivated us to work with the Sahariya tribe in Baran, Rajasthan, in 2007. Here, the Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) established a 200 km community network and connected it to a local server.

This way, even if the Internet is down, the community can share content and access content through the local server, thus creating an intranet or community network. This has also encouraged the community over the years to create a localized database and archive its oral and traditional knowledge, art as well as culture. Just like the Sahariyas, the Toda tribe too is a rich repository of culture, craft and heritage. So when the All India Artisans and Craftworkers Welfare Association reached out to us, seeking help to digitally archive the Toda tribe’s knowledge, we were more than happy to help. Together, we are now developing a platform that captures the history, heritage, culture, ecology, traditions, art, craft and stories of the Todas. The idea behind setting up a digital archive in the form of a website is to not just create a repository of this information for the purpose of preservation but also allow the rest of the world to see—without compromising the uniqueness of their craft or designs—the richness of the Todas.

The Internet has a lot to offer to tribes living secluded lives in the forests. Connectivity can ensure better access to government schemes, entitlements and rights; digital market linkages can enable tribal communities to exhibit their craft and agricultural produce to the world for an improved livelihood; access to the Internet can keep them updated on government notifications and other relevant information; digital documentation can preserve and showcase their richness for posterity. All of this, along with more, also has a direct connection with social as well as behavioural changes within a community. We envision digitally empowering as many tribes as we can.

We wish to bring the tribes of India under the umbrella of digital inclusion to expose them to the services and opportunities the internet has to offer. However, the intention is not merely to teach community members to operate a computer but to provide them contextual, relevant and timely digital literacy, so that they can access the internet to consume the information it offers and share the knowledge that they hold with the rest of the world. Osama Manzar is founder-director of Digital Empowerment Foundation and chair of Manthan and mBillionth awards. He is member, advisory board, at Alliance for Affordable Internet and has co-authored NetCh@kra–15 Years of Internet in India and Internet Economy of India.

- http://www.livemint.com/Opinion/AhrviHfdlAluJ6ffBBpUQN/Preserving-our-vanishing-tribes-their-heritage-language-an.html, Sep 8, 2017

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Cleaning a River in Two Months, and on a Budget

An INTACH pilot project to clean the Assi river at Varanasi has yielded considerable results within two months, using low-cost unconventional methods. According to an article published on the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People blog, the non-profit organisation managed to clean the wastewater flow in the Assi river (which flows into the Ganga at the Assi Ghat in Varanasi) using the process of bacterial bioremediation - or removing pollutants from water using biological products. The Assi river is 3.5 km long, running through densely-populated areas that discharge their waste directly into the water. According to a report in Firstpost, INTACH’s decision to use these methods was based on their success in other areas. “We had cut our teeth in cleaning up the Palam nallah in Dwarka in 2012.

Prior to that, we had cleaned up the Kushak nallah in Chankyapuri in 2010 and the east Taj drain which crosses the eastern entrance of the Taj Mahal. This was such a foul smelling drain that tourists would cover their nose to enter from this side. This clean up was undertaken last year,” Manu Bhatnagar from INTACH told the website. According to Bhatnagar’s blog article, the organisation was faced with several challenges when they first began their Assi river project. There was large amounts of floating garbage; the water moves quickly making treatment difficult, there were structures very close to the water, leading to public protest against interventions that could increase the water levels; and several inflows in the river even towards the end of the river, which are hard to treat over a short stretch. This meant that INTACH had to come up with ways to get around these challenges.

According to the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People article, the team introduced bacteria concentrates into the water (100 litres of concentrate a day) at six river locations. The bacteria degrades organic pollutants, enhances dissolved oxygen levels and removes odours, the article says. To get around the fast flow and increase retention time, the team installed soil bag weirs (to create lagoons and increase retention time) and coir log bundles (as a medium for bacteria to reside, grow and treat the pollutants, and also to reduce water velocity). Floating waste was removed manually. Installing these interventions finished at the end of December 2016.

Within four weeks, residents near the Assi river were saying the bad smell had reduced, Bhatnagar’s article says. When the water was tested two months after the treatment began, a significant improvement was visible. Biochemical oxygen demand levels had reduced by 83.7%, chemical oxygen demand levels by 50%. The cost of this project, according to Bhatnagar, is Rs 4.34 crore in the first year and Rs 3.75 crore in subsequent years (at constant prices). Conventional methods including sewage treatment plants would require Rs 75 crore in capital equipment cost, with land costs, maintenance costs etc. on top of that. It was also be a long-term affair. In the interim, Bhatnagar has argued, the kind of treatment used at the Assi river is good for both the environment and local populations. Installing these interventions finished at the end of December 2016.

Within four weeks, residents near the Assi river were saying the bad smell had reduced, Bhatnagar’s article says. When the water was tested two months after the treatment began, a significant improvement was visible. Biochemical oxygen demand levels had reduced by 83.7%, chemical oxygen demand levels by 50%. The cost of this project, according to Bhatnagar, is Rs 4.34 crore in the first year and Rs 3.75 crore in subsequent years (at constant prices). Conventional methods including sewage treatment plants would require Rs 75 crore in capital equipment cost, with land costs, maintenance costs etc. on top of that. It was also be a long-term affair. In the interim, Bhatnagar has argued, the kind of treatment used at the Assi river is good for both the environment and local populations.

- https://thewire.in/176238/intach-assi-river-cleaning-varanasi/, Sep 11, 2017

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Archaeological Survey of India finds Hindu relics at Mizoram Neolithic site

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has made a startling discovery at the necropolis at Vangchhia in Mizoram — sculptures of Ganesha, Kalki, and Makara, guarded by the neolithic menhirs of the lost civilisation. An ASI team led by archaeologist Sujeet Nayan had stumbled upon the necropolis, in itself a startling discovery, in 2016. Further study conducted over a period of two months by the local circle in Guwahati earlier this year revealed these deities in January. Incidentally, Minister of State for Culture, Mahesh Sharma, will travel to Aizawl on September 12 to inaugurate the new local circle office of the ASI. The study was conducted by Superintending Archaeologist Dr Milan Chauley, Deputy Superintending Archaeologist Dr Tejas Girg, and Assistant Archaeologist Salam Shyam Singh, of the Guwahati Circle. "Many such water pavilions (Makara figure with water channel) were encountered during the exploration.

Besides, a few Hindu deities and human sculptures carved out of the natural rock are also worth mentioning (sic)," a report filed by the team to the ASI headquarters stated. The menhirs (megaliths) of the Champai district, under which Vangchhia falls, have been a fixture in the local culture for ages. At the direction of the local INTACH chapter, the ASI, under Sujeet Nayan, explored the area and found one of the world's largest necropolis. During the initial study, the ASI found several water pavilions, a stairway bordering Myanmar called the 'Ancestor's Pathway', handmade buff pottery, retaining walls, and a plethora of wall carvings, among other things. "In our initial study of a square kilometre area, where the presence of over 171 menhirs was known, we found over 207 menhirs.

This year, we intend to explore the entire catchment area," Nayan said. P Rohmingthanga of the Aizawl INTACH chapter, who directed the ASI team to the spot, however, said the possibility of finding Hindu deities in the area was "far fetched". "The area was inhabited by Mizo people, who inhabited parts of Myanmar, Bangladesh and the neighbouring states of Manipur, Assam, and Tripura. It is not possible for any Hindu civilisation to have flourished in the area," Rohmingthanga said.

He added that owing to influences from the Hindu kingdom in neighbouring Manipur and perhaps, Tripura, there were some Hindu structures in the vicinity. "There are two structures of Hindu deities in other parts of the Champai district, one in Mamit, bordering Assam's Cachar district, and another in Nunglei, near the Bangladesh border. But, it is not possible for any such sculpture to be in Vangchhia," Rohmingthanga said, adding that he will take up the matter with Sharma. Period confusion. Charcoal samples sent for carbon dating to two labs throw up different periods. Sample sent to Florida belongs 1450 and 1500 AD; Lucknow dates to 600 AD.

- http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-asi-finds-priceless-relics-in-mizoram-2544358, Sep 11, 2017

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National Treasure - Why the Bihar Museum is in a class of its own

On Mahatma Gandhi's birth anniversary this year, chief minister Nitish Kumar will gift the country its most modern museum - with Japanese aesthetics, 21st century environment-friendliness and the spotlight firmly on Bihar as the protagonist in the story of India. Such as when army of Alexander the Great cowered before the forces of Dhana Nanda, the last ruler of the Nanda dynasty of Bihar. Such as when the Mauryan Empire, with its seat at Patliputra or present-day Patna, under Asoka the Great spanned from Afghanistan to Bangladesh. Such as when the Buddha discovered the meaning of life, when Lord Mahavira underlined the importance of non-violence, when universities such as Nalanda and Vikramshila shone the light of knowledge.

The idea
The Bihar Museum is spread across 13.5 acres along Jawaharlal Nehru Marg, better known as Bailey Road, and has been built at a cost of Rs 500 crore. It is the brainchild of chief minister Nitish Kumar. "Though Patna Museum is globally acclaimed, it faces shortage of space and the artefacts and exhibits are not maintained on a par with international standards," he had said, explaining the rationale behind the new museum. "Therefore, we have decided to develop a museum of international standard." Nitish didn't just come up with the idea; he ensured that it took concrete shape. Canada-based Lord Cultural Resources was hired as the master consultant. Japanese firm Maki and Associates won the contract as main architectural consultant, and proposed to execute the design with the help of Mumbai-based Opolis Architects. The foundation stone was laid on June 9, 2013, and construction work started in July same year. "The idea for a new museum was of the chief minister and the bold decision was needed," said chief secretary Anjani Kumar Singh, also the nodal officer of the museum. "We thought that after separation of Jharkhand, our state can grow by showcasing our heritage and attracting tourists from all over the world." The Bihar Museum, he stressed, will not just be a viewing gallery of exhibits; "it will be an experience museum".

The design
Maki and Associates visualised the design to have four different facets: The museum as an expanse to reflect the layers of Bihar's history, as a journey that reflects the memories and epics of the state, as an educational landscape, and as a symbol that reflects India's past and future. Instead of a building compressed in floor area, the architects chose a dispersed scheme in which the building is spread out and the surrounding landscape integrated with it. They applied the Japanese concept of "Oku", which creates a sense of anticipation and contemplation. It allowed for the interplay of courtyards and terraces, alternating indoor spaces with outdoor and breaking the monotony of the viewing experience. Keeping in mind the metallurgical tradition of the land, the architects used 9mm plates of "weathering" or Corten steel on the façade of the buildings. "Corten steel develops a layer of rust, which prevents further rusting. The colour becomes darker with time and eliminates the need for painting and maintenance," explained M.S. Yahya, planning engineer, building construction department. Engineering giant Larsen & Toubro has executed the construction work under the supervision of the department. "The built-up area of the museum is 2.65 lakh square feet," Yahya added. "There are eight blocks, all inter-connected. Seven are G+1 (ground + first floor) while one, which will serve as the administrative building, is G+4." The museum is environment friendly and uses fly-ash bricks, fly-ash mixed concrete, rough granite, sandstone and terracotta bricks. The architects have not used any glossy material. It has solar panels, smart lighting and water conservation schemes.

The experience The museum has seven galleries: Orientation, Children's, History, Visible Storage, Historical Art, Regional Art, and Bihari Diaspora. The Orientation gallery gives viewers a quick peep into the land's rich history. The Children's gallery entertains and educates young visitors with historical anecdotes and natural history objects. The History gallery is divided chronologically, from prehistory to the rise of dynasties. Thematic zones explore the growth of Buddhism and Jainism, the Mauryan empire and Emperor Asoka. Other major sections in the History gallery include the Gupta Empire, important Mahaviharas like Nalanda and Vikramshila, the Pala dynasty, the medieval period, Sher Shah Suri, and the Mughal rule. The Visible Storage gallery houses a terracotta collection from Bihar and other major historical sites of the Indian subcontinent, and includes a numismatics section. The Historical Art and Regional Art galleries engage with interpretive approaches to art, while the Bihari Diaspora gallery explores the contribution of migrants from the state in the history and culture of lands where they settled - such as like Mauritius, Surinam, Trinidad and Tobago.

"The world-renowned, beautiful sculpture of Yakshi from the 3rd century BC will be the USP of this rich and fabulous museum, just like Leonardo da Vinci's Monalisa is the USP of The Louvre in Paris," said Bihar Museum additional director JPN Singh. "Who made the Yakshi is a mystery, but she invites you to imagine what was in her left hand that has been lost to time, how she was sculpted from a single piece of rock, the glazing polish and the amount of labour that must have been involved." The museum will initially house artefacts from Patna Museum, but it will keep growing and will be connected to other museums across the globe, Singh said.

The challenges
The Bihar Museum, in the words of chief secretary Anjani Kumar Singh, is "ahead of time" for the state and the country. "The museum will be world class, but we are having trouble putting together a world-class team for it," the chief secretary said. "There is a lack of quality manpower. The teaching of museology in our country has not kept pace with time." A few experts have questioned why the museum has been registered as a society, expressing fears that it is like a private institution to which government-owned artefacts are being shifted. Anjani said it was registered as a society "because such institutions cannot flourish under bureaucracy. Decision-making process of the government is very slow and too rule-bound. The global practice is to grant autonomy to such institutions. In any case, the development commissioner will be the chairman of the management committee and the finance secretary and the art and culture secretary will be part of the team, so the museum will not become a private one." Efforts are on, he said, to make the museum financially self-sufficient by incorporating a restaurant, souvenir shops, and exhibition halls. A Patna-based architect felt the museum should have been built on a higher plinth, pointing out that the area was under over 3 feet water during the 1975 floods.

- https://www.telegraphindia.com/1170911/jsp/bihar/story_172126.jsp, Sep 11, 2017

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Charminar's 4 kamaans fall apart amid twin custodians

The four imposing kamaans were once an inalienable part of the Charminar heritage complex. They served as gateways to important parts of the city, primary royal precincts. But collectively, the charkamaan the imposing archways -now with Gulzar Houz as its nucleus is administratively no longer a part of a single complex. And now, activists say that the structures must be reconciled. It is a classic case of too many cooks. Consider this: While the over 400-year-old Charminar is in the custody of the Archaeological Survey of India, the four gateways -Charkamaan, Machhli Kaman, Kaali Kaman and Sehre-Baatil Kamaan -are in the custody of the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation. Touching upon the subject, Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage co-convener Sajjad Sahid explained that the Charminar was never a `standalone' structure. "Several regal structures are not standalone structures.

Take the case of the Taj Mahal. It has a mosque and another structure which is a part of its complex. The case of Charminar is the same," he said. Structures such as Charminar and Taj Mahal have certain vantage points which gradually expose the intricacies in architecture."It is the Charkamaan, the last gateway towards the Charminar from where stucco work can be seen clearly. "These structures were designed in such a fashion that there would be view points, which would gradually expose them to the eye," he opined. Soon after the construction of the Charminar, the Qutb Shahi ruler began work on the Charkamaan. Ac cording to historians, they were constructed during the reign of Sultan Mohammed Quli, who was the fifth sultan of the dynasty.

Historians said that these kamaans were once gateway to palaces and other buildings. These include the now vanished Daad Mahal and Khudadaad Mahal. In his book, historian S A A Bilgirami notes that palaces existed ne ar the Sehr-e-Baatil Kamaan, which is on the west. With the Gulzar Houz, formerly known as Chaar su ka Houz, he also notes that under each kamaan passed a highway leading to other parts of Qutb Shahi dominions. Heritage aficionados said that the four gateways must either be handed over to the ASI. This, they said, would be an ideal scenario, since the Charminar too is in its custody. And while the Pathergatti has been a later addition to the complex, the precinct is a part of the Charminar pedestrianisation project. While the project was conceived years ago, it continues to move at snail's pace. The biggest eyesore is the large, garish signage which obstructs the architectural aesthetic from view.

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/hyderabad/charminars-4-kamaans-fall-apart-amid-twin-custodians/articleshow/60472515.cms, Sep 12, 2017

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UP: ASI mulling over adopt-a-monument concept to protect heritage

On the pattern of Scotland, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is mulling over a scheme to help people become involved in conserving their archaeological and cultural heritage. Emulating a practice in the Scotland Archaeological Department, the ASI is thinking of launching ‘adopt-a-monument’ concept to keep culture and heritage intact and to strengthen the bonding between the present and the past. Officials at the ASI headquarters say the move is expected to change the grim scenario and at the same time will also provide an opportunity to save city’s rich heritage. In addition, ASI is also going to rope in government and private schools, colleges and Institutions in the task, aimed at bringing the generation closer to the history.

The ASI’s generous move would also include ‘illegitimate’ structures as well. Lucknow has more than 600 structures (including palatial mansions, maqbaras, gardens, gateways and others) that are not on the ASI’s protection list but are still part of history. Going by the ASI records, presently there are around 59 protected monuments in the state capital whereas 15 heritage structures are state protected. “Though it’s going to be a mammoth task, ASI is starting with familiar monuments first, ” a senior ASI official told HT. Officials said the Adopt-a-monument was in a nascent stage but possibilities of rolling out the scheme could not be ruled out. Sources in ASI Lucknow Circle said the project was being deliberated upon at the ASI headquarters and was expected to be passed to other circles for execution. Sources said the ASI would take help of both government and private schools and colleges in the job. “Once the monument gets adopted by the school or any institution, the students don’t have to do any conservation work, instead have to organise small awareness programmes at the monuments, just to make people or visitors aware of the structure and to keep it clean,” said sources. The ASI would also enlist help of the civil defence personnel and other volunteers who want to contribute in the preservation of the city’s rich heritage. “It’s a good way of preserving the monuments by roping in the societies and volunteers, eager to contribute,” an ASI official said.

In late 1990s’, a similar practice was carried out by ASI in Goa and the changes were remarkable. Arc of Conception, a protected monument near Basilica of Bom Jesus, one of the most important heritage sites in Goa that is said to house the mortal remains of St Francis Xavier, was the first site to be benefited most. Indu Prakash, superintending archaeologist, Lucknow Circle said they were yet to get any orders from the ASI headquarters. However, he too found it the most feasible way to save the heritage structures.

- http://www.hindustantimes.com/lucknow/up-asi-mulling-over-adopt-a-monument-concept-to-protect-heritage/story-ImGE1lG90LKhAJRAPetdIL.html, Sep 12, 2017

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DIGITAL GATES FOR SHANIWAR WADA

Shaniwar Wada is all set to acquire a bit of technology for touristic convenience. The historic fort will be spruced up by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) by installing automatic gates, like the ones at metro stations, at the entrance of the Shaniwar Wada. The tourists will have to get a token to enter the monument, which will allow them to explore the premises for two hour. Once their time expires, they will be restricted from exiting, pending approvals. BG Aelikar, assistant conservation officer of ASI Pune sub-division said that the initiative will help maintain the monument. He said, “It will be convenient for the tourists since they will not have to stand in queues and at the same time help in reducing paper wastage. By the end of the day, we notice a lot of litter around the monument which gives a really shabby look. Also, a major concern that will be addressed by the system is that it will help to curb any kind of corruption that can occur during manual ticketing.”

Aelikar is certain that the system will earn a positive feedback, upon which they will extend it to other monuments of the city. Currently in Maharashtra, these gates are being put up at Bibi Ka Maqbara, Ellora Caves and Shaniwar Wada. The construction gear has already arrived at Shaniwar Wada and the work is expected to start by the end of the month. A total of eight automatic gates will be put up at the monument — four at the entry and four at the exit. Bipin Chandra, deputy superintending archaeologist of ASI, Mumbai Circle recounted more advantages of the system for tourist. He said, “There were many minute flaws in the ticketing system of monuments, like people had to stand in long queues. With the introduction of automatic ticketing system, this problem will be curbed to an extent. Also, when we started the online booking system, we noticed that at times people failed to produce the ticket because of bad network or low battery in the phone. The automatic doors will solve this problem as well."

He too said that after the have gauged the success of this initiative, they would want to implement it in another monuments listed under ASI. Along with these gates, they Shaniwar Wada will also get CCTV cameras, which have been long overdue. The premises will now be surveyed by 11CCTV units, three of which can capture a 360-degree view. Aelikar said, “We had been planning to get CCTV cameras since some time now, but the earlier supplier was very expensive and thus we had to cancel the deal. Now, we are acquiring the CCTV cameras at a more cost-effective rate. The cameras will be put up on major places in the Wada so that the premises are under constant surveillance. A control room will be put up on the premises and also I and officials at the ASI, Mumbai will be able to assess the footages on cell phones.”

- http://punemirror.indiatimes.com/pune/civic/digital-gates-for-shaniwar-wada/articleshow/60484625.cms, Sep 13, 2017

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Year Zero: Ancient Indian Text Includes Oldest Recorded Zero Symbol

Scientists claim to have traced the earliest example of one of the most significant conceptual breakthroughs in arithmetic to an ancient Indian text, known as the Bakhshali manuscript. The specific manuscript has been housed in one of the Bodleian Libraries at the University of Oxford since the very early days of the 20 th century. Oldest Zero Symbol Discovered?

As the Guardian reports , radiocarbon dating divulged the fragmentary text, which is engraved on seventy pieces of birch bark and contains hundreds of zeroes, dating back to as early as the third or fourth century. This makes it the world’s oldest known origin of the zero symbol that we use in the modern world, as it is about five centuries older than experts previously thought. Marcus du Sautoy, professor of mathematics at the University of Oxford, tells Guardian , “Today we take it for granted that the concept of zero is used across the globe and our whole digital world is based on nothing or something. But there was a moment when there wasn’t this number.” During the latest research, three samples were extracted from the specific manuscript and examined at the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit. The results showed that the three samples come from three different centuries, one from 224-383 AD, another from 680-779 AD and another from 885-993 AD, making experts curious about how the manuscript ended up being a single document. According to Richard Ovenden, head of the Bodleian Library, the results of the study clearly show how the contributions of South Asian scholars have been traditionally ignored in the Western world, “These surprising research results testify to the subcontinent’s rich and longstanding scientific tradition,” he told Guardian .

The Bakhshali Manuscript
The manuscript was discovered in 1881 by a peasant in the village of Bakhshali, which is near Peshawar, now in Pakistan. The extant manuscript is incomplete, consisting of seventy leaves of birch bark. The intended order of the seventy leaves is indeterminate. In 1902, the Bakhshali Manuscript was transferred to the Bodleian Library, Oxford, where it is still kept, but experts suggest that it is too fragile to be examined by scholars. In the fragile document, zero does not appear to be an individual number, but instead it seems to be a placeholder in a number system, just as the “0” in “101” indicates no tens. It features a problem to which the answer is zero, but here the answer is left blank.

The Historical Significance of Zero
Many ancient cultures came up individual with similar placeholder symbols throughout history. Ancient Egyptian numerals were base 10. They used hieroglyphs for the digits and were not positional. By 1770 BC, the Egyptians had a symbol for zero in accounting texts. By the middle of the second millennium BC, the Babylonian mathematics had a sophisticated sexagesimal positional numeral system. The lack of a positional value (or zero) was indicated by a space between sexagesimal numerals. By 300 BC, a punctuation symbol (two slanted wedges) was co-opted as a placeholder in the same Babylonian system. In a tablet unearthed at Kish (dating from about 700 BC), the scribe Bêl-bân-aplu wrote his zeros with three hooks, rather than two slanted wedges. However, the Babylonian placeholder was not a true zero because it was not used alone.

Nor was it used at the end of a number. Thus numbers like 2 and 120 (2×60), 3 and 180 (3×60), 4 and 240 (4×60), looked the same because the larger numbers lacked a final sexagesimal placeholder. Only context could differentiate them. Eventually, it was the dot symbol in the Bakhshali script that evolved into the hollow-centered version of the symbol that we use today. It is also seen as the progenitor of zero number that we first meet in a text called Brahmasphutasiddhanta, written by the Indian astronomer and mathematician Brahmagupta in 628 AD. “This becomes the birth of the concept of zero in its own right and this is a total revolution that happens out of India,” Du Sautoy tells Guardian . And adds, “This is coming out of a culture that is quite happy to conceive of the void, to conceive of the infinite. That is exciting to recognize, that culture is important in making big mathematical breakthroughs.”

- http://www.ancient-origins.net/news-history-archaeology/year-zero-ancient-indian-text-includes-oldest-recorded-zero-symbol-008783, Sep 15, 2017

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13th century Sivalingas in a state of neglect

In all, five Sivalingas dated back to 13th century were found in a state of utter neglect at Tripurantakam, a temple town located on Guntur- Kurnool highway in Prakasam district. The five Lingas locally called as Panchalingas, carved out of black granite stone represents Kakatiya style of Art. Dr E Sivanagi Reddy, CEO, Cultural Centre of Vijayawada and Amaravati, visited these neglected heritage precincts as part of the scheme ‘Preserve Heritage for Posterity’.

Dr Reddy in a statement on Thursday said that the Lingas are losing their antiquity due to exposure to Sun and rain for several centuries. He also said that most pilgrims reaching Tripurantakeswara Temple through the Ghat road miss these historical Lingas, as they are surrounded by thorny bushes and thick vegetation. He informed that the historical Lingas set in beautifully carved Panavattas are arranged in such a way that the bigger one is the centre and one on each corner of the four directions. Dr E Sivanagi Reddy, who is a Heritage activist appeals to the authorities of the Tripurantakam Temple, Endowments and Archaeology and Museum Departments to look into the matter to protect and preserve the site by cleaning the debris all-around and erecting a shed over the Sivalingas.

- http://www.thehansindia.com/posts/index/Amaravati-Tab/2017-09-15/13th-century-Sivalingas-in-a-state-of-neglect/326656, Sep 15, 2017

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Jain caves: An ancient treasure in neglect

Carved out of a monolith on a picturesque hillock close to the right bank of river Manair in Malharao mandal in the district, the Jain caves, locally known as Naina Gullu, are craving for attention. Though discovered long back, neither the State Archaeology Department nor the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is interested in protecting these monuments. Though the exact period of the creation of these rock-cut caves is not known, it is believed that they were cut during the peak of the spread of Jainism and the Jain monks used them during the 7th and 8th centuries as Jainism flourished for nearly 2,000 years in Telangana from the 4th century BC to 13th century AD. Sculpted out of a single sandstone, the caves were converted into shrines of Shiva (Hindu religion) as there is a Lingam inside one of the chambers.

Located about 2 km away from the right bank of River Maneru near Adavi Somanapalle village, these caves resemble the famous Undavalli caves on the banks of the Krishna in Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh. Consisting of open pillared mantapas with shrine chambers in the interiors, the caves are surrounded by forests and can also be reached from Tadicherla crossroads where a popular temple, Nagulamma, is located. On the other hand, rock paintings have also been found at these caves and there is a pool in Manair river near these caves that hold water throughout the year. When contacted, district eco-tourism coordinator Kalyanapu Suman said that both district Collector A Murali and District Forest Officer (DFO) T Ravi Kiran are keen on developing Naina Gullu as a tourist hub by taking all the necessary steps.

“Proposals to lay a path from Adavi Somanapally bridge across the Manair to the caves is on the cards,” Suman claimed, adding that he had recently inspected the place to find a way out for the development of the Jain caves as a tourist attraction. Meanwhile, archeology enthusiast K Surya Kiran opined that the caves must to be brought under the protection of the ASI to preserve them for future generations. “These caves can be developed as a tourist hub due to its proximity to the famous pilgrim centre Kaleshwaram in the district,” he opined.

- https://telanganatoday.com/jain-caves-an-ancient-treasure-in-neglect, Sep 15, 2017

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Satellite images show green cover of Bangalore reducing alarmingly fast

Bangalore of the yesteryears was a city of gardens; cool, pleasant and green. In addition to the 2000+ species of trees -- some natural and some specifically planted -- individual gardens in small households contributed to the large biodiversity here. The undulating terrain of the city allowed formation of lakes -- natural and manmade – that were interconnected. As the ‘Garden City’ transformed into the ‘Silicon Valley of India’, the city’s rapid, uncontrolled growth turned this biodiversity haven to a concrete jungle. Here is a glimpse of the transformation -- the paved surfaces of Bangalore have increased by a whopping 1005%, yes 100 times, in the past 40 years! This came at the sacrifice of the green cover, reducing from 68% in 1973 to merely 25% in 2012. The area of ponds and lakes reduced to less than one third from 3.4% to just 1%. If the trend continues, Bangalore would be left with merely 3% of green cover in the next couple of years! Yes, this startling discovery was made by scientists from Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur and the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore.

In a recently published study, they calculated the number of trees that form the green cover over Bangalore using satellite images over the period of 45 years, and found some very detailed and interesting results. Funded by the SERB division of Department of Science and Technology, the results of the study were published in the Journal of Environmental Management. But in the 45 years, how did we get from being a ‘green’ city to a ‘grey’ one? “As population and its activities increase in a region, the boundary of the city expands to accommodate growth along the urban fringes, leading to urban sprawl with the fragmented urban morphology, thereby impacting local ecology at peri-urban areas and city outskirts”, says Dr. H.A. Bharath from IIT-Kharagpur, also a co-author of the study, detailing the reasons behind the urban sprawl that we witness now. Researchers of the study used multi-resolution image data, captured through satellite sensors, to estimate the number of trees in the urban area. “Multi resolution means at different levels of spatial description.

It is necessary to capture important aspects in different contexts”, explains Dr. Bharath on the use of multi-resolution images. Once these images were processed, the researchers used various techniques to estimate the green cover and classify the land use for Bangalore. They extracted tree cover for the 198 wards that constitute Bangalore city. To validate the tree count thus obtained, they collected actual field data by counting the number of trees in select wards. They also analyzed image data over a period of time.The ward-wise tree count showed a lot of variation in the number of trees in each ward. Some wards had more than 40,000 trees whereas some wards had less than 100 trees. The tree density also varied ranging from less than 1 tree per 500 persons to 1.25 trees per person. In addition, the study indicates that for every person in Bengaluru, there should have been 8 trees to offset the human respiratory carbon or to have adequate oxygen.

However, in Bengaluru, there is just 1 tree for every 7 persons, quite a poor figure compared to 4 trees per person in Gandhinagar, Gujarat, and 2 trees per person in Nashik, Maharashtra. A shortcoming of this study is that the technique used here captures only large trees; leaving out shorter, smaller trees that lie underneath these large trees. Nevertheless, it does indicate an alarming trend in the loss of green cover. So how do such studies help? “Spatial data available through satellite images can help in inventorying, mapping and monitoring of natural resources in a cost effective way. It can help in the understanding of urban growth pattern, urbanization rate, and the underlying problems of urban sprawl, etc. These, ultimately, aid in better administration through the provision of basic amenities”, signs off Dr. Bharath.

- https://researchmatters.in/article/satellite-images-show-green-cover-bangalore-reducing-alarmingly-fast, Sep 19, 2017

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World’s smallest inhabited river island is right here in India

Northeast India is a favourite among tourists, with its abundance of natural resources making it a place of immense beauty. Among the Northeast’s many beautiful locations is the world’s smallest inhabited river island, Umananda Island, in Assam. Attracting visitors from every corner of the world, Umananda Island is situated on the Brahmaputra. This island has historical as well as religious significance and comprises several ethnocultural groups. Legend has it that Lord Shiva created this island for his wife Parvati’s happiness. Another name given to the island is Bhasmachal and there is an interesting story behind it.

Apparently, the God of Love as per Indian mythology, Kamdev, was burnt to ashes here after interrupting Shiva who was in deep meditation. The island is hugely popular as it inhabits golden langurs, one of the most endangered primate species. A story goes that these langurs were left behind by two youth nearly 35 years ago and they have survived till now. These langurs, otherwise hostile, have adapted to humans because of frequent visitors here. Five of them live on the island now. Also known as Peacock Island due to its resemblance to peacock feathers, one historically prominent place here is Umananda temple. This temple was built in 1964 by Ahom King Gadadhar Singha and attracts thousands of devotees. The devotees come to this sacred shrine to offer prayers and seek blessings from Shiva.

- https://yourstory.com/2017/09/smallest-river-island-india-assam/, Sep 19, 2017

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Merasi Music - Talent that deserves more recognition

The Merasis, a marginalised community of northwestern Rajasthan which has been corned as 'Mangniyars', meaning beggars carry a unique music legacy of over 800 years, an intangible cultural heritage as defined by the UNESCO. But, even today, they are considered as untouchable and are denied access to education, healthcare and political representation."We have to beg for our basic necessities, if we want to eat food anywhere, we have to carry our own vessels along with us, otherwise no food is given to us," said Akram Khan, who is one, of the Merasi group and who drives an auto in Jaisalmer, where he picks up and drops nearly 63 kids to school every day.

Their community is supported by a community hub called Lok Kala Sagar Sanstha (LKSS), which was registered in Jaisalmer in 1996 and Sarwar Khan is the director of it. It basically serves as a community centre for the marginalised Merasi.Hanover Wadia who is the representative of LKSS for Mumbai spoke about the problems faced by these communities because of the upper castes, “They belong to a region where the scenario is dominated by the upper caste communities, and these people are not even given basic facilities like education. Merasis have to go to their patrons, whenever they are called, and these patrons make them perform for hours and in return give them whatever they want to give. These can be a bag of grains, Rs. 50 or any other thing that they wish.”

To carry such a big initiative is indeed a task, and it becomes much worst when it comes to source finance to carry out the activities of the NGO. “Most of the financing comes from abroad, there is a lady called Karen Lukas who has been connected with us from a long time and helps us in funding,” explained Hanover.“Indian people normally not shown much interest in financing such things, maybe they do not know about the Merasis, but our country should come forward and encourage our home talent,” voiced Wadia.The show that Merasi people did in Mumbai during their recent visit was a treat to watch. Right from the starting of the show when the singers started with Kanha song to the soulful Channa Mereya with which they put a full stop to their performance, kept the audience intrigued throughout.

- http://www.radioandmusic.com/entertainment/editorial/news/170919-merasi-music-talent-deserves-more, Sep 19, 2017

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Ex-king seeks govt help to convert Askote palace into museum

Bhanuraj Pal, the 107th king of the erstwhile Askote principality in Pithoragarh district, claims he has been trying for government assistance to turn his ancestral palace into a museum for many years but to no avail. The Askote principality joined India in 1967.Pal says the government is ignoring his requests, which makes him a “bit disheartened”. He says Pandit Govind Ballabh Pant, the erstwhile home minister and his father’s teacher, advised him to integrate the kingdom with India. After the Indo-China war in 1962, the Indian government feared that Beijing could try to take over Askote and asked the king to integrate into India.Later, Askote became a part of India, he says.For centuries, Askote has been a resting point for the pilgrims on their way to the Kailash Mansarovar. The pilgrims meet the king as part of the religious journey. The Rajbhar dynastry was set up by Abhay Pal Deo in 1279 AD?as offshoot of the Katyuri dynasty. Prior to this, Askot was ruled by the Doti Kings of Nepal.

Askote got its name from ‘Assi Kot’ or 80 forts that once dotted the region, Pal says.The Dwal Darbar was set up by the Pal Dynasty from where the erstwhile rulers governed the kingdom. This palace is now in need of repair and maintenance.Pal says he has hundreds of relics and artefacts which he wants to curate and display at a museum, so that they can be preserved for the posterity.

“The artefacts show the chronology of the Kingdom as well as the rich cultural heritage and are a treat for the lovers of culture and sociology.”“It has been around a decade that I have been asking the successive governments to help turn my palace into a museum to be operated under me. I have got assurances one after the other, but not much has been done,” he laments. Pithoragarh district magistrate C Ravishankar says Pal is the patron of the Kailash Mandarovar Yatra and he has been showcasing artefacts to the pilgrims. “We have not received any formal proposal from his side asking help for making a museum. We will ask the culture department to consider the matter once we receive a written proposal from the king,” he asserts.

- http://www.hindustantimes.com/dehradun/ex-king-seeks-govt-help-to-convert-askote-palace-into-museum/story-9hY9nW5WFqSQvx67yWWkqJ.html, Sep 20, 2017

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Carcass of adult rhino found in Kaziranga National Park

Carcass of an adult female rhino was recovered from Kohora Range in Kaziranga National Park during routine patrolling, a senior Forest Department official said on Wednesday. A patrolling team spotted and recovered the carcass of the rhino with its horn intact from Bordoloni Forest Camp area last evening, said Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) Kaziranga National Park Rohini Ballav Saikia in Kaziranga. The rhino was suspected to have had a natural death, Saikia said. KNP authority removed the horn and deposited it with the concerned department of the Kaziranga National Park for further record and preservation, the DFO added. So far the toll of natural dead rhinos within the KNP has gone up to 16 as officially recorded at the DFO’s office of the UNESCO declared World Heritage Site Kaziranga National Park.

- http://indianexpress.com/article/india/carcass-of-adult-rhino-found-in-kaziranga-national-park-4853322/, Sep 20, 2017

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Madurai ponds in deep water

Madurai city has 190 water-bodies, including irrigation tanks, temple tanks, kanmais and smaller ponds, and has had the mercy of Rain God in the recent past. But in spite of Madurai having received fairly good rainfall, 361 mm from June to September to be exact, many of these water-bodies continue to remain dry, thanks to encroachments and clogged channels, say experts.

The district as a whole has been receiving intermittent rainfall, including some days like September 8 when the city recorded 108 mm of rainfall — the average rainfall throughout the district on that day was 23.42 mm. If rainwater harvesting structures and the channels bringing water to the tanks had been kept in good condition, this rain could have helped to increase the groundwater table level.

J Kanagavalli, water expert and programme co-ordinator at Dhan Foundation, says, "Last year's drought proved how important it was to maintain the water harvesting structures that we now have, instead of going for new ones. The present Madurai city had 33 large water-bodies and they had existed till about three decades ago, by 1994 14 of these large water-bodies were lost as concrete structures were built on them."

After the expansion the Madurai Corporation's total area went up to 148 square kilometres and there are 190 water bodies in its limits. Kanagavalli says some of the tanks on the outskirts were well-maintained by the people themselves like the Madakulam tank, which is now awaiting the arrival of the monsoon. The water-bodies were well maintained till the users of the tank were the custodians of it.

Out of the 190 tanks 40 have lost their originality and now hold more sewage than good water. Almost all the waterways to the tanks are not maintained and remain clogged with garbage or encroached upon. "This is the time that we should act, otherwise how did Goripalayam which is on the banks of river Vagai become flooded in the recent rains, if the drains were maintained and in good condition,'' she says, adding that water that flows into tanks and rainwater harvesting structures and on non-concretised channels will percolate and reach the groundwater table.

Vandiyur, Madakulam, Sellur and Thenkkal are the only tanks which are alive now, though all of them have shrunk in size, but the waterways of these major tanks are either damaged or blocked. She says that conducting a detail study into the current status of the waterways and taking action to maintain them was the only way to save Madurai in future. The above mentioned tanks today are at least ready to hold water not because of the authorities but because of the people who depend on them. It was the Federation of Vandiyur Tank Water Development, Sellur Tank Restoration Association, and NGOs, which did some work on the tanks — some of them with their own funds.

Former councillor K Thilagar says that they had taken all efforts to desilt the Sellur tank and petitioned the government, when no action was taken, they decided to desilt it "but it rained and now the tank is holding a few feet of water, and borewells which had been bone dry are now yielding water. But if there is more rain all that water would overflow and go waste," he adds.

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/madurai/madurai-ponds-in-deep-water/articleshow/60757251.cms, Sep 20, 2017

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Stop work at Parade Ground: ASI

Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), Kerala, has written to the district collector and the tourism department to stop work at Parade Ground, where a portion of the ground is being raised for Fifa U-17 World Cup practice sessions.ASI said that the main reason for waterlogging at St Francis Church, monument protected by ASI, is due to the construction activity by the department at parade ground.

"The original ground level outside the church compound was raised considerably by changing the natural gradient and the construction of dwarf wall with grill fencing, causing obstruction to the free flow of rainwater towards south," ASI said in its letter to the government. Smitha Sumathy, superinten ding archaeologist in-charge, ASI Kerala said that increasing the road level in front of the St Francis Church during periodical maintenance and asphalt work by the corporation and absence of proper drainage system around the church complex also contributed to the grave situation.

The work is a gross violation of ASI norms which stipulates that areas up to 100m and 200m around the structure are prohibited and regulated. Violating norm is punishable with imprisonment up to two year andor fine of Rs 100,000. Conservation experts said that the work has defaced the land's rich heritage. The recent heavy showers flooded St Francis Church, one of the few protected monuments under ASI.

While tourism department initiated construction activities, stop notice was issued by ASI, Thrissur circle in February , objecting construction activities. The issue was brought to the notice of the district collector as well, and a police complaint was made by chief archaeologist of Kochi sub-circle. Convener of Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) K J Sohan said the ground, which is being raised with a mud-based mixture, will se verely affect the water holding capacity of the land and the water table of the region.

"The ground where Portuguese, Dutch and British colonists conducted their military parades and drills is being destroyed for the sake of a five or six day practice, by raising it with mud. An open ground - which is reminiscent of the European era with a town square - and heritage buildings surrounding it is being fenced, illegally, from public access. They have built a deep drain within it, but the drains leading to the sea cannot be deepened accordingly , which will lead to severe waterlogging during showers, flooding and swamping the area," Sohan said. However, A P M Mohammed Hanish, nodal officer for the preparations for the global tournament in Kochi said that the church and its surrounding area used to get waterlogged even before the Fifa U-17 World Cup preparations at the Parade Ground.

"The land had been allotted as practice ground for Fifa U-17 World Cup by the government and necessary preparations are progressing in Fort Kochi. The preparation for the World Cup has to be conducted. A portion of the ground that separates the church and the practice ground has been left untouched. Any remedial measures, if needed, will be done in consultation with the ASI in future," Hanish said.

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kochi/stop-work-at-parade-ground-asi/articleshow/60773900.cms, Sep 21, 2017

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Rediscovery of the history of Bengal at Eco Park

The history of Bengal has come alive at the Eco Park in New Town, through the Sculpture Garden on History of Bengal, which was inaugurated yesterday by the Urban Development Minister. The nature park is the idea of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee it was her idea to convert the huge area surrounding a lake into Eco Park, which she formally named Prakriti Tirtha. The sculpture garden is meant to celebrate the glorious legacy of the history and culture of Bengal.

Young and talented artistes have made beautiful life-like relief sculptures. The garden would also host daily 45-minute light-and-sound shows in English and Bengali in the evenings. The murals depict personalities, events and time periods intrinsically linked with Bengal. They are titled as the following: Shri Chaitanya and the Middle Age Renaissance of Bengal; The Battle of Plassey; Shri Aurobindo India and International Spiritualism; Satyajit Ray and his World; Santhal Rebellion; Ram Mohun Roy and the Renaissance of Bengal; Swami Vivekananda Call of Youth and his Activities; Anandamath Bankim Chandra, The Awakening of Bengal and India; Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Azad Hind Fauj and his Revolution; From Lalan Fakir to Kazi Nazrul Islam A Different Spirit of Revolution and Culture; Rabindranath Tagore Viswabharati Movement.UNI SJC KK

- https://news.webindia123.com/news/Articles/India/20170921/3189909.html, Sep 21, 2017

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Salcete’s heritage Camara to regain lost glory

Margao's heritage structure, Camara Municipal de Salcete, will get a new lease of life with the municipal council working out modalities to restore the building to its past glory. Once the hub of administrative affairs, the structure is of historical importance too as it was the sole witness to the bloodbath that inflicted upon innocent Goans by the erstwhile Portuguese regime to wrest power of the civic body from a local outfit.

On September 21, 1890, around 6,000 voters from Margao and surrounding villages had gathered to cast their ballots. In fray were the members of local outfit, Partido Indiano and Portuguese-backed outfit, Partido Ultramarino. Deprived of rule for many years, Ultramarino members were frustrated and determined to grab power this time around. The peaceful election turned out to be a bloodbath as Major Filipe Torres ordered to open fire at innocent people leaving 23 dead and few hundreds injured. The situation was akin to the Jallianwalla bagh massacre witnessed by the British India, 29 years later.

The heritage structure, located in old market, finds mention in several books. Valmiki Faleiro, former MMC chairperson, who penned 'Soaring Spirit' dedicated a chapter to it. He mentioned that the structure was built by the state in 1770 using funds squeezed out of overtaxed Salcete gaunkaris. It was elegant even until the mid-20th century. Gaunkars were taxed as the municipal senate covered the entire taluka.

"The senado (senate) was formed in 1775 and Margao was elevated to the status of a villa (town) on April 3, 1778. The civic body was then raised to the status of a municipality between 1822 and 1824,'' the book has mention in it. South Goa taluka's municipal offices were housed in the building. The author also states that Camara was substantially renovated in 1873, but partly collapsed in 1897 and 1898. In April 1898, the offices of the Camara were shifted to a premises at a location which is now the new municipal market.

Following the footsteps of state in 1770, the present council too has used the part of funds allotted for burial grounds for acquiring this dilapidated building from its original owners, says a ward councilor, Glen Andrade. He informed that the previous council had resolved to demolish the building as it was unsafe. However, the present council passed a resolution to buy it from its owner, Alina Araujo Vaz and send the proposal to the Directorate of Municipal Administration (DMA), for approval. "I worked hard for convening meetings with the local MLA and TCP minister, Vijai Sardesai several times. Vijai was keen in preserving the structure, but the question was about fund generation. He, however, came out with a solution,'' Andrade said.

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/goa/salcetes-heritage-camara-to-regain-lost-glory/articleshow/60772268.cms, Sep 21, 2017

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Climate change: 10 Himalayan states discuss growing challenges, policies for sustainable development at Aizawl summit

The 6th edition of the Sustainable Mountain Development Summit (SMDS-VI) began on a rousing note in the sprawling Mizoram University campus with representatives from 10 Himalayan mountain states of India deliberating on how best present policies can be suited to the mountains and how people of these regions can be protected against the reality of climate change.Inaugurating the summit on Wednesday evening, Mizoram chief minister Lal Thanhawla warned that "resources we use today are finite" and the development process planned today by governments and policymakers must "factor in safeguards" that do not compromise the needs of present and future generations.

He said the northeast was no more being viewed only from the strategic angle but as a "transitional zone between Indian, Indo-Malayan and Indo-Chinese geographic regions" and the "geographical gateway for much of India's flora and fauna". "We must leave no stone unturned to see that out rich heritage - biological and cultural are sustained for the present and future," the chief minster stated. The three-day summit from 20 to 22 September, is being organised by the Integrated Mountain Initiative (IMI), a civil society initiative involving the 10 Indian Himalayan mountain states and the hill districts of abutting states in association with the Mizoram Sustainable Development Foundation. Mountain and hill states constitute almost 20.3 percent of India's total land mass.

Approximately 4 percent of the Indian population live in the mountain states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram and the hill districts of Assam, Tripura and West Bengal. Since 2011, IMI has been conducting the SMDS as a platform to bring together the Indian Himalayan region to discuss themes that are vital to the development and well-being of the region. Speaking at the inaugural, Sikkim MP PD Rai, who is a part of the IMI Governing Council, said the summit will have "urgent conversations about issues plaguing the mountains" as climate change was a reality that was being witnessed all over the world and "India, particularly its landslide-prone mountainous regions", needed to prepare adequately for the environmental and disaster challenges to come.

There could not be a better venue for such a conference than the picturesque Mizoram University, whose campus is situated in lush forested area that includes a water catchment reserve and a small biodiversity park. A number of streams, which are offshoots of the Lui river, flow through the campus. Among the issues to be deliberated are the protection of hill livelihood along with conservation of forests and how existing forest rules can aid in development of hill states.Participants who include central and state government officials, legislators, members of academia, think tanks and civil society, will discuss among other things the enormous prospects in the hill and mountain states for a thriving eco-tourism and mountain agriculture, of which Sikkim is one of the best exponents.The Aizawl summit will focus on themes of Climate Change and Sustainable Mountain Cities, both of which have become issues of regional and national priority.

With the limitations in livelihood opportunities and access to jobs in mountain states, coupled with inadequate compensation for provision of ecosystem services, outmigration trends continue to rise and integrated effort are needed for action to make development sustainable, with engagement of all stakeholders, the IMI said.SMDS-VI at Aizawl was preceded by a lively Youth Summit, 18-20 September, that saw the participation of 60 youth leaders from across the Himalayan region discussing ecological and livelihood challenges to their future.

- http://www.firstpost.com/india/climate-change-10-himalayan-states-discuss-growing-challenges-policies-for-sustainable-development-at-aizwal-summit-4065377.html, Sep 21, 2017

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Climate change: 10 Himalayan states discuss growing challenges, policies for sustainable development at Aizawl summit

The 6th edition of the Sustainable Mountain Development Summit (SMDS-VI) began on a rousing note in the sprawling Mizoram University campus with representatives from 10 Himalayan mountain states of India deliberating on how best present policies can be suited to the mountains and how people of these regions can be protected against the reality of climate change.Inaugurating the summit on Wednesday evening, Mizoram chief minister Lal Thanhawla warned that "resources we use today are finite" and the development process planned today by governments and policymakers must "factor in safeguards" that do not compromise the needs of present and future generations.

He said the northeast was no more being viewed only from the strategic angle but as a "transitional zone between Indian, Indo-Malayan and Indo-Chinese geographic regions" and the "geographical gateway for much of India's flora and fauna". "We must leave no stone unturned to see that out rich heritage - biological and cultural are sustained for the present and future," the chief minster stated. The three-day summit from 20 to 22 September, is being organised by the Integrated Mountain Initiative (IMI), a civil society initiative involving the 10 Indian Himalayan mountain states and the hill districts of abutting states in association with the Mizoram Sustainable Development Foundation. Mountain and hill states constitute almost 20.3 percent of India's total land mass.

Approximately 4 percent of the Indian population live in the mountain states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram and the hill districts of Assam, Tripura and West Bengal. Since 2011, IMI has been conducting the SMDS as a platform to bring together the Indian Himalayan region to discuss themes that are vital to the development and well-being of the region. Speaking at the inaugural, Sikkim MP PD Rai, who is a part of the IMI Governing Council, said the summit will have "urgent conversations about issues plaguing the mountains" as climate change was a reality that was being witnessed all over the world and "India, particularly its landslide-prone mountainous regions", needed to prepare adequately for the environmental and disaster challenges to come.

There could not be a better venue for such a conference than the picturesque Mizoram University, whose campus is situated in lush forested area that includes a water catchment reserve and a small biodiversity park. A number of streams, which are offshoots of the Lui river, flow through the campus. Among the issues to be deliberated are the protection of hill livelihood along with conservation of forests and how existing forest rules can aid in development of hill states.Participants who include central and state government officials, legislators, members of academia, think tanks and civil society, will discuss among other things the enormous prospects in the hill and mountain states for a thriving eco-tourism and mountain agriculture, of which Sikkim is one of the best exponents.The Aizawl summit will focus on themes of Climate Change and Sustainable Mountain Cities, both of which have become issues of regional and national priority.

With the limitations in livelihood opportunities and access to jobs in mountain states, coupled with inadequate compensation for provision of ecosystem services, outmigration trends continue to rise and integrated effort are needed for action to make development sustainable, with engagement of all stakeholders, the IMI said.SMDS-VI at Aizawl was preceded by a lively Youth Summit, 18-20 September, that saw the participation of 60 youth leaders from across the Himalayan region discussing ecological and livelihood challenges to their future.

- http://www.firstpost.com/india/climate-change-10-himalayan-states-discuss-growing-challenges-policies-for-sustainable-development-at-aizwal-summit-4065377.html, Sep 21, 2017

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Saving the Pulicat by fighting its silting

Plan to construct training walls on the estuary will be a boon to fishermen and flora and fauna supported by the lake. Setting the ball rolling for the construction of training walls for the Pulicat lake’s estuary, the Fisheries Department has obtained coastal regulation zone clearance from the district-level committee. The walls will help prevent the silting up of the lake, which is the second largest brackish water lake in India, and help save it and the rich biodiversity. The next step would be to obtain State-level and national-level clearances for the ?27 crore project, explained sources in the Fisheries Department that has taken the initiative to construct the walls on either side of the estuary to prevent it from closing up. The proposal was developed based on a study by the Department of Ocean Engineering of IIT Madras. The walls would keep the mouth open and silt-free so that fishermen can ply their boats throughout the year. The direction and height of the wave and the orientation of the shoreline were studied to fix the alignment of the training walls. Fishermen have been complaining that the lake is fast silting up and they were unable to ply boats in many spots.

Ecologist P.J. Sanjeeva Raj of Madras Christian College, who has researched the lake for 50 years, said the water body was an ancient one and urgent steps have to be taken to save it. “The heavy siltation is a cause for worry. If the mouth closes, the growth of sea food and fauna will get reduced drastically. The speed of inflow of seawater and quantum of water has been reduced, leading to the silt remaining in the lake itself.

If it continues, it will ultimately become a cricket field. When a 365 sq. km lake is drying up, nobody bothers,” he lamented. Aarde Foundation’s Xavier Benedict, who has been working at Pulicat for the past 10 years, said that during a recent study, it was found that there are spots in the lake where the depth is just 72 cm. “There are points where the depth was 9 metres but now, it has come down to 3 metres. The salinity level is also bad. During Dutch rule, Pulicat saw some 4,500 ships anchoring since it was a natural harbour. Pulicat was a major centre for textile exports, particularly muslin,” he said.

- http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/saving-the-pulicat-by-fighting-its-silting/article19719067.ece, Sep 21, 2017

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Floating ‘B4’ boat labs will study the Brahmaputra river

The Centre plans to safeguard the fast-eroding Majuli island — Asia’s largest riverine island — using research carried out on floating ‘B4’ boat labs along the Brahmaputra river. Majuli, the first island district of the country, was once 1200 square kilometres but due to excessive erosion has since shrunk to under 500 square kilometres. It is also known for being the seat of Assam’s Vaishnava monasteries.

‘B4’ – the ‘Brahmaputra Biodiversity and Biology Boat’, work on which will commence by December, will initially cover the region from Pasighat, Dibrigargh, Neemati, Tejpur and Guwahati in the state of Assam, said officials at the Department of Biotechnology. The department has set aside Rs. 50 crore as an initial investment on the project. The large barge (or boat) which will be set up on the river will be a “well-equipped laboratory” with cold storage facilities for holding samples, along with multiple satellite boats or rafts that will venture into shallower and narrower parts of the river to lift samples.

“The large boat with the permanent lab will be spread over two floors and will go up and down the river. One floor will be dedicated to scientists, while the other floor will be accessible to residents of the area to learn about the eco-system,” said DBT secretary K. Vijay Raghavan on Wednesday. “The idea is to study the changes caused by dams, climate change, human interventions and the eventual effects it has on the river eco-system. Despite supporting considerable biodiversity, the Brahmaputra has not been studied as extensively as the Amazon,” he said.

Officials at DBT said that the project will “constantly monitor” the impact of various environmental and anthropological factors that affect the river and conduct research to mitigate the effects. The interdisciplinary focus, the work plan for which is developed with IIT Guwahati as the nodal agency, will also aim at a thorough study of freshwater resources of North East India. “The integrated approach is aimed to combine data, science and judgement that can impact policy,” said officials. Union Science and Technology and Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan made the announcement about B4 on Wednesday and stressed that the programmes aimed at the North East of India were inspired by the ideals of Deendayal Upadhyay. Further, Vardhan said that a Rs. 50-crore phyto-pharma plant mission has been set up to conserve medicinal plants. A frugal microscope ‘Foldscope’ assembled from simple components will be distributed in various schools and colleges across the northeastern states.

- http://indianexpress.com/article/india/majuli-island-floating-b4-boat-labs-will-study-the-brahmaputra-river-4853893/, Sep 21, 2017

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India commits to global efforts for combating desertification

Indian delegation led by Jigmet Takpa, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MOEF&CC) comprising Satya Pal Vashishth, DIG Forests, MOEF&CC, Surabhi Rai, Director, Ministry of Rural Development and representatives of numerous scientific institutions and civil society organizations participated in the 13th session of Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) held from September 6-16 in Ordos, Inner Mongolia, China.More than 5,000 delegates from 196 countries attended the conference, including 80 ministers from affected countries. Globally, 169 countries are affected by desertification. More than 2 billion hectares of productive land are estimated to be degraded, which accounts for 1/3rd of the world’s land.

More than 1.5 billion people are estimated to be living off degraded land. Jigmet Takpa announced India’s willingness to join the UNCCD Land Degradation Neutrality Target Setting Programme (LDN TSP) at a high-level ministerial meeting. India is now the 112th country to join the LDN TSP, after Brazil. So far, 113 of 169 countries have expressed interest in recovering large areas of degraded over the next 12 years, under the special global initiative of the Land Degradation Neutrality Target Setting Programme. Takpa held several meetings with the UNCCD Secretariat and partner agencies such as the Global Environment Facility (GEF), Global Mechanism (GM), and LDN Fund on issue of financing and supporting projects to combat desertification, land degradation, and drought in India. He said, “Desertification and land degradation are very critical issues that affect everything from biodiversity, economics, livelihoods, society, climatic cycles and gender empowerment. Government of India is committed to mitigating this challenge at different levels in the country, while also working together with other countries and partner agencies to address this problem at the global level.” The conference ended with agreement from 113 countries to specify concrete targets, with clear indicators to reverse degradation and rehabilitate more land.

- http://news.statetimes.in/india-commits-to-global-efforts-for-combating-desertification/, Sep 21, 2017

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Mountain women bear the brunt of climate change

Women, who do the majority of drudge work, in the economically and environmentally fragile Hindu Kush Himalayas region are disproportionately impacted by the effects of climate change. It is widely recognised that climate change effects take the heaviest toll on the vulnerable and the poor. These impacts are exacerbated if the affected person is a woman. A recent study — Status of Gender, Vulnerabilities, Adaptation to Climate Change in the Hindu Kush Himalaya — by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) sheds light on the disproportionate levels of adversities that women and girls are bound to face due to climate change, especially in the economically and environmentally fragile Hindu Kush Himalayas region.The Hindu Kush Himalaya region extends some 3,500 km from Afghanistan in the west to Myanmar in the east, stretching across eight countries including India, Nepal, Bhutan and Pakistan, with varied political and economical systems.

Despite its rich biodiversity, this region is home to the poorest of the world who are the most vulnerable to climatic change impacts.Womenfolk in this region already struggle under the burden of unequal power relations, gender-biased attitudes, unequal division of labour and limited land ownership and control. Additional adversities only add to their problems. “Climate change will have differential impacts among countries and those living in poor countries are likely to suffer disproportionately both in terms of being impacted earlier and to a greater degree, and the Hindukush Himalayas (HKH) region is one of these,” the study notes.Due to geographical isolation, poor physical and economic infrastructure and poor access to markets and technologies that come as a baggage with living on the mountains, the communities face poverty in many ways such as low income, ill health, poor access to health facilities, malnutrition, poor education, drudgery and a high dependence on the natural environment.

The study mentions that the mountain people have always been exposed to droughts, floods, soil erosion, and changes in the crop cycle.The difference now is that the intensity and frequency of such stress events increased over recent decades, while at the same time the socioeconomic drivers of change, such as migration, urbanisation, peri-urbanisation, increasing demands for energy and power, the extraction of water for industrial and agricultural activities, waste dumping and growing pollution of water and air, is also adding to the pressure.These have weakened the adaptation ability of the communities.

Due to the gender structure and deeply entrenched socio-cultural ideologies that marginalise women’s work contributions relative to men, women are more vulnerable and at risk as compared to men.Mountain women, who have great resilience and knowledge to adapt to various stresses, are often left out from the key decision processes and are marginalised further even though they are likely to suffer more in the future. And climate change is bound to increase these gender inequalities further in many ways.

For example, a main form of so-called gendered vulnerability to climate change relates to the highly skewed gender-based division of labour in the Hindu Kush Himalayan region.There is high rate of male out-migration on the mountains which results in added burden of agricultural and pastoral work on the women that already have the responsibilities of household work and casual labour. The paper cites ICIMOD research on the feminisation of agriculture and natural resource management that reveals that in some mountain regions in India, women undertake 4.6 to 5.7 times the agricultural work men carry out. In Nepal, the range is skewed even more with women carrying out 6.3 to 6.6 times the agricultural work that is undertaken by men.

- http://www.eco-business.com/news/mountain-women-bear-the-brunt-of-climate-change/, Sep 21, 2017

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Restoring the glory of Wazir Khan Mosque

He gets up in the wee hours of the morning to say Fajar prayers at the glorious Wazir Khan Mosque located near Delhi Gate of the Walled City. This routine Asghar Ali has continued throughout his life for more than five decades. During the day too he comes he runs his shop near the mosque and ends his day after offering Isha prayers at the same mosque. Asghar, who lives in the vicinity of the mosque, says for many people the mosque may be a tourist attraction but for him it is part of his life. "My grandparents came here from India after the partition of Subcontinent. Since then my family has been living here. Everyday many people including foreigners to visit Wazir Khan Mosque,” he said. ‘A mole on the cheek of Lahore’, as art lovers call it, Masjid Wazir Khan is a world wonder. It was built in 1634-35 A.D. during the reign of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan by Ilam-ud-Din Ansari, commonly known as Wazir Khan, who was governor of Lahore till 1639 A.D. The mosque was completed in about seven years. Colourful ceramics and plaster have been used. Persian art can be seen everywhere in the mosque. The mosque’s walls are almost completely suffused with detailed embellishment of kashi kari (tile mosaic), fresco painting, stone and chuna (lime plaster) decoration, and taza kari (brick outline fresco) on both the exterior and interior surfaces. The entire floor is built in cut and dressed small brick work laid in some 13 patterns.

Wazir Khan Mosque has been under the extensive restoration since 2009 under the direction of Agha Khan Trust for Culture with the contribution of Government of Punjab.“Agha Khan Historical Culture Programme has been working on inner area of historic Wazir Khan Mosque, for rehabilitation of its southern facade, western facade, urban rehabilitation of neighborhood context and acquisition of properties in Chowk Wazir Khan. The northern bazaar area was conserved in 2013-2015 which cost three crore. And then new project was to restore the east side of Chowk in 2015-2017 that costs 13crore that includes walls, lights and other minor parts of street.” said the senior consultant of Agha Khan, Rashid Makhdom. The scope of the project amounts to Rs 533.057 million for the conservation of Wazir Khan Mosque over the period of five years. An amount of Rs 200 million, under Annual Development Programme funds, has been allocated during the ongoing financial year (2016-2017). Also the US Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP) decided to restore and preserve the heritage in October 2015 and restored the architectural masterpiece Masjid Wazir Khan in 2017 with $1.2 million in funding.-The restoration project included bringing the Chowk Wazir Khan to its original form by digging 2.5 meters to separate the existing street level and the original ground level of the forecourt of the Chowk through archaeological excavations. A retaining wall was built to avoid future encroachments and to ensure a protective bulwark for the hujras.

The total area is 383 km to Chowk Wazir Khan and they restored 57 streets with in the duration of 9-10 months and only the front area is renovated by the organizations. Next plan is to restore the area from Masjid Wazir Khan to Akbari gate. An appropriate and effective system of display will be designed and implemented in its historic context. The urban design and rehabilitation of Chowk Wazir Khan will be integrated with the conservation design of the mosque. The authority of Walled City aims to preserve the rich ornamentation of tile mosaic, Fresco painting and brick imitation work which is going to attract local and foreign tourists. Walled City Lahore Authority Deputy Director Tania Qureshi said that so far the restoration process of Royal Trail from Chowk Kotwali to Masti Gate is in process.

This is the second phase of the Royal Trail and 1st phase i.e. Delhi Gate to Chowk Kotwali was completed in 2015. In this restoration process we are improving the facade of all the buildings on the route. Recently Chowk Wazir Khan has been conserved and is now open for public gatherings and events. This year the Independence Day festival was organized at Chowk Wazir Khan for the residents of the walled city." "The conservation and restoration of Wazir Khan Mosque in a five years plan. So far the PC-1 of the Mosque has been prepared by WCLA and after its approval the work will start depending upon the releasing of budgets." she further said.

- http://nation.com.pk/editors-picks/21-Sep-2017/restoring-the-glory-of-wazir-khan-mosque, Sep 21, 2017

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‘Monuments above E-W tunnel safe’

The two tunnel boring machines (TBM) of East-West Metro will now go past two of the three protected monuments —Magen David and Beth-El Synagogues — without causing any structural distress to the monuments. This puts to rest Archaeological Survey of India's fears that the heritage structures could be damaged because of the effects of tunnel boring. The three protected monuments (the third one being Currency Building) had almost derailed the E-W Metro project till the Calcutta high court resolved the issue.The first TBM has crossed both the synagogues under stringent monitoring carried out by the construction agency Afcons and experts from IIT-Kharagpur. "Beth-el Synagogue is now within the influence zone of the second TBM, which has crossed Magen David and will cross Beth-El in a couple of days. The structural parameters of both the synagogues are sound. Both ASI and IIT-Kgp are satisfied with the results. The earth-settlement and impact of vibrations are well within limits," said KMRC general manager (administration) A K Nandy. The Ancient Monument and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act (AMASR) prohibits any construction within 100m radius of any protected monument.

The E-W Metro corridors passes through the prohibited zone of these three monuments. This is why KMRC, the executing agency of the project, could not obtain the mandatory no-objection-certificate (NoC). Only after Justice Dipankar Datta sought the cabinet secretary's clarification on how similar heritage hurdles could be overcome in Delhi did the ASI issue NoC, imposing some stringent conditions. Driving the TBM past Magen David was the biggest challenge for the engineers as the machine came the closest to it — only 9.8m away. While Beth-El is 17m from the tunnel, Currency Building is 85m away.

"Now, we are confident of moving ahead without causing any problem to heritage structures on the way," said an Afcons engineer. After these two heritage hurdles are over, there will be only one protected monuments to negotiate with — Currency Building. "Apart from these centrally protected monuments, there are state listed heritage buildings of equal importance. We will be taking similar measures for them as well," said KMRC officials.The TBM will have a number of heritage structures within its influence zone. They include St Andrews Church (11m from the Metro alignment), Writers' Buildings (24m-23m), and Raj Bhavan (about 8m to the right). In fact, a closer look at the detailed project report reveals that part of the historical Lal Dighi would be required to construct a metro station.

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kolkata/monuments-above-e-w-tunnel-safe/articleshow/60786395.cms, Sep 22, 2017

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The registry of vanishing history

Tombs, gates, pillars, stepwells — India’s unprotected built heritage exists in countless forms, and suffers from as many kinds of neglect. A new report from Intach takes stock of the deplorable conditions in which they stand today Lal Gumbaz springs up abruptly. It is buried deep inside Nangli village, off the Gurugram-Sohna highway. Past the village market and lanes closed in by high walls, where people nonchalantly jostle with buffaloes for space, Lal Gumbaz rises desolately on a hillock against the kaala pahaad (black hills). Relentless rains that August morning had made the winding mud paths slushier. One easily spots the dome — the gumbaz — as habitation thins out, farm houses appear and villagers become scarce.

Gangaram’s family has lived close to the monument for over 50 years. He casually greets Naseem Ahmed, cleric at the local Shahi Jama Masjid and my guide to Lal Gumbaz. Gangaram describes the monument as it is now — a grazing ground for buffaloes, overrun by weeds and awaiting ruin. The Lal Gumbaz is estimated to be around 600 years old. Those like Ahmed believe it dates back to the Khiljis. A mazaar (tomb), presumably of a Sufi saint, it has seen better days. The cleric recalls pre-Partition stories of visitors flocking there for prayers on Thursdays.

Now it is a repository of decay. Layers of plaster peel off from the smaller, domed and pillared red-stone structure in front. Inside the main dome, the mazaar has long disappeared — dug up by local treasure-hunters. “People believe they will find valuables in old tombs. I used to keep the place clean as long as the tombs were intact,” says Ahmed. A deep crack runs right through the central dome. The floor is broken. The stink of bat poop hangs heavy in the air. Small birds nest in several minute crevices. A smaller structure stands behind the main gumbaz. Here too the tomb has been dug up. A gaping hole in its centre bares the large stones used for construction while undergrowth criss-crosses the exits. The property, Ahmed adds, belongs to the Wakf board. Its steady deterioration is painful for him to watch and he hopes some authority will pitch in to save it. From the hillock on which Lal Gumbaz rests, one can spot another dome a few hundred metres away. It appears as old. Ahmed does not know much about it. Nevertheless, we walk the slushy path towards it along with a mother and children who happen to live, well, right there. The structure is now enclosed within a private property and a household and its livestock function around it. Inside the mazaar in the main structure is a tomb — intact and covered with a chaddar. There are signs of daily obeisance in this room painted green. However, newer constructions butt into the monument. A smaller structure beside it has been turned into a storeroom for stacks of grass.

*** Badshahpur is merely miles away from Gurugram. The quiet town’s new fondness for frenetic urbanisation appears inevitable. Smaller, inner roads connecting to the Gurugram-Sohna highway are getting wider, and the expanding Kadarpur road is big development. In the bustle around it, the fate of the heritage Badshahpur baoli (stepwell)hangs uncertain. Locating the baoli is in itself a quest. Queries to passers-by draw a blank. When several pointers lead to a spot around a school, we do a few rounds, yet don’t find it. Finally, when the photographer and I manage to find out where it is — the main entrance is inside the premises of a school — getting to it proves a challenge of another sort. The baoli is private property and the entrance through the school is under lock and key. The only other way is through a settlement adjacent to the road. A young girl who lives there advises against the idea. “It is very dirty,” she says. Nevertheless, we make our way and are bang on the baoli. The muddy waters in the L-shaped baoli are choked by layers of garbage. Further, the settlement dwellers have turned the edges of the baoli into an open defecation spot. Architecturally the baoli, built in 1905, has held up well. But encroachment has imperilled it in no small way. And new roadmaps might just be its death knell.

*** Lal Gumbaz and Badshahpur baoli are not aberrations, but the norm. Heritage has typically languished at the bottom of priorities. And unprotected structures, such as the Lal Gumbaz and Badshahpur baoli, are firmly outside the radar. In July, various news reports carried Union minister of state for culture Mahesh Sharma’s response in the Lok Sabha where he said 24 protected monuments had been lost to rapid urbanisation and encroachment. And if this happens to be the plight of monuments protected either by the Archaeological Survey of India or the State government, unprotected historical structures across the country don’t stand a chance. The state of India’s unprotected built heritage is the focus of a new report by Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (Intach). The report, prepared by Intach’s architectural division and set to be published soon, focuses exclusively on structures of historical significance across the country and studies their present condition. An uphill task, it was executed with the support of an extensive volunteer system. “The objective is to establish the threats, issues and challenges that our unprotected built heritage faces by collating ground data,” says an Intach official about putting together The State of Built Heritage of India.

Officials at the society, which works on heritage awareness and conservation, say unprotected heritage — structures, gates, monuments as well as tangible and intangible history — listed by the organisation runs to well over 57,000 in number. And that count is by no means comprehensive. Listing is an ongoing process at Intach. But The State of Built Heritage of India is meant to be an intervention. “It is a research to get the issues out in the open for built heritage pan India,” says the official. Under way for the past three years, the report banks on primary and secondary studies as well as contributions from volunteers from Intach’s chapters across the country. It is enriched by inputs from co-professionals outside of Intach who work on conservation. The research involves the work of 114 volunteers and professionals.

While culling out the condition of unprotected built heritage state by state, it aspires to not just remain a caution report. The purpose is to get state authorities on board and make action plans, and step in with exhibitions and seminars. “The intent is to solicit involvement of government bodies, the private sector and the community in working towards safeguarding neglected built heritage,” the official adds. An outcome of The State of Built Heritage of India is the Heritage at Risk Register, which has evolved from the research. Both Lal Gumbaz and Badshahpur baoli are among the 359 structures from across the country that are at risk. “It is not an exhaustive list and is meant to be periodically updated,” says the Intach official. The risk register reflects only a minuscule part of the crisis. For some structures, such as the Hall of Nations at Pragati Maidan, it is already too late.

The risk register is a call to not only save heritage structures, but also a reminder to the learning it offers. The Lal Gumbaz, for instance, the official says is an excellent educational resource. It reveals much about the building construction methodology of the era. “The complex is in danger of disappearance as all structures are crumbling down. Domes of two structures have already collapsed,” the official adds. The Badshahpur baoli is valuable in more ways than one. In modern-day glass-and-chrome Gurugram, it is a rare reminder of heritage from a different era. Built over 112 years ago, this late-Mughal construction reflects both Mughal and colonial elements. “It had a zenana and a mardana ghat for functional reasons. The main square reservoir still holds water,” notes the official. And the imminent threat to it is not missed on anyone. “The Kadarpur road under construction by HUDA may engulf or obscure it. Further, the development plan of Gurugram-Manesar does not have any marking of the baoli,” the official points out. All it needs to survive may be is a minor realignment of the road. Badshahpur baoli merits protection not just for its past. In a parched city such as Gurugram, it has the potential to be revived as a functional source of water. But before that it would need to retrieve its catchment area destroyed by building activity. “Badshahpur baoli features as an important Indo-Islamic monument of Haryana in the collection of Virtual Museum of Images and Sound, which was supported by the ministry of culture,” points out the official.

Unprotected built heritage is a also a minefield. Issues begin with ownership. A lot of them, such as the Badshahpur baoli, are privately owned. Some are owned by multiple government agencies. Hence, to set off talks of conservation is a challenge. Awareness and dialogue are what Intach intends to raise through the seminars and exhibition that will follow the publishing of the report. The official rues the absence of heritage awareness. Masonry from unprotected monuments are often hauled away for newer constructions, while most unprotected sites are just handy garbage dumps. It surely does not help that conservation brings no incentives. “There are no real incentives for owners to save and maintain these properties. Community involvement is nearly absent,” says the official. If we remain slow to intervene and preserve, officials warn, we are set to lose a major chunk of our heritage within decades. It is not an unfamiliar warning. But are we listening? More pertinently, do we care?

- http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/blink/know/the-registry-of-vanishing-history/article9867649.ece, Sep 22, 2017

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What's Next For New Delhi's Pragati Maidan?

When the Hall of Nations—a modernist icon of New Delhi—was razed to the ground in April, the move was decried by many within India’s architectural community. One group, which includes the architect and engineer who designed the structure almost half a century ago, declared the demolition to be “an act of outrage.” As I detailed for CityLab just weeks before the Hall of Nations was torn down, the building was commissioned by the Indian government to host the country’s first major international trade fair in 1972. It also served as a symbol of the country’s progress as a nation 25 years after independence.

The site where the Hall of Nations lay, quite aptly, is known as Pragati Maidan (“Progress Grounds”). There, the building went on to host many fairs and exhibitions over the years. But now, with the dust barely settled from the demolition and its fallout, the Indian government is eyeing progress again through what just might be the most ambitious plans independent India has ever seen. The redevelopment of Pragati Maidan now has an estimated cost of around $385 million. The project centers around the construction of an Integrated Exhibition Convention Center (IECC), equipped with as many as three helipads and a seating capacity of 7,000.

Inside the Hall of Nations building just before its demolition earlier this year. (Ashish Malhotra) From the outside, the IECC will be a modern, elliptical structure with a sloping facade, elevated by a podium under which an amphitheater will host cultural events. On the inside, the building will offer a “window to Delhi”—a view of nearby sights such as the Supreme Court of India, India Gate, and the presidential home, Rashtrapati Bhavan. The overall complex, meant to potentially hold global summit-level events, is also expected to have a 500-room luxury hotel and a parking garage for 4,800 vehicles. LC Goyal is one of the key figures behind the project. A career bureaucrat, Goyal took charge of the India Trade Promotion Organization (ITPO), which oversees Pragati Maidan, in September 2015. The idea of redeveloping the site has been discussed in the past. But during Goyal’s tenure at the ITPO over the past two years, the idea has come closer to fruition than ever before. When meeting Goyal at his Pragati Maidan office to discuss the plans, it’s clear he’s highly invested in the project on a personal level. “I give more than 100 percent to any job that is given to me, all through, right from day one. This is probably the last assignment that I have in the government,” says Goyal.

LC Goyal holds up a copy of the redevelopment plan for Pragati Maidan. (Ashish Malhotra) Though he has no formal background in urban planning or architecture, he quickly got to work on Pragati Maidan’s redevelopment after taking over the ITPO, fully immersing himself in its details, especially an elaborate web of planned traffic interventions around the site aimed at easing congestion in an already heavily clogged area of Delhi. According to a video released by India’s Press Information Bureau in May, at least ten new roads are planned. The centerpiece of the traffic interventions will be a 0.75-mile, six-lane tunnel which will lead into Pragati Maidan’s new underground parking facilities. The tunnel will also link two of the city’s heavily congested roads. Goyal says the traffic interventions will cost around $138 million alone, and cites them as essential part of the project, without which he never would have moved forward. “It was very clear in my mind that I will not take up this project unless it is coupled with traffic interventions….[There is] no point spending so much of money to have a world class complex if I’m not able to ensure uninterrupted, unhindered access,” he says.

Proponents of the project say it’s a golden opportunity to deal with the area’s choked roads. But critics like Swapna Liddle of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) still question the wisdom of constructing a convention center in the middle of an already congested city. “What we were saying is that it would be nice to locate this maybe near the airport,” she explains. “But a big convention center like this, [in the middle of the city] is not the not the best place to have it.” “This is like shopkeepers trying to persuade you to buy something, saying ‘This is the latest!’” Liddle’s concerns run deeper than just traffic. She believes the Pragati Maidan of old was able to draw Delhi residents to intimate fairs and exhibitions in large part because of its location within a nexus of recreational local attractions such as the nearby Old Fort and National Science Center. A convention center, she worries, may not be as a good a fit for the area. “It was a sort of fairground… in keeping with the surrounding institutional structure,” she recalls. “I think a convention center is very different because it involves the coming in of a large number of people who come in from outside, have a conference or whatever it is, and then go out.”

As described by Liddle, the role Pragati Maidan has played in the civic life of post-Independence New Delhi is a reminder of the controversy that surrounded the Hall of Nations’ demolition. Central to the debate was the question over whether the building could be considered “modern heritage.” From the government’s perspective, the answer was ‘no,’ because the building was less than 60 years old. But many architects, historians, and cultural commentators have taken issue with the 60-year threshold, set by Delhi’s Heritage Conservation Committee (HCC). Such critics lament a lack of appreciation for modern heritage, which they see as part of a broader trend that emphasizes flashiness and catchy buzzwords. “The delight in gigantism—the Burj Dubai obsession. A convention center for thousands of people!” quips Narayani Gupta, a renowned historian known for her work on Delhi’s urban history. “Personally, I have no idea what ‘world class’ means.... ‘state of the art’—this is like shopkeepers trying to persuade you to buy something, saying ‘This is the latest!’” she says in reference to the government’s new vision for Pragati Maidan. Though Gupta has long been an advocate for the preservation of Delhi’s urban architecture and art, she knows these issues are not a priority for most of the city’s residents. “Delhi is getting there and has become a more ‘aware’ city than it was some decades earlier. But ‘urban art’ means nothing to people who only think of plots of land and bigger cars, people who do not walk, saunter, or look at the city,” she says. They may have more than just criticism of their architecture and urban planning to contend with. Those behind Pragati Maidan’s redevelopment however, say they struggle to understand the criticism the project has received. They say that while they are focused on progress, their design has still been very conscious of Delhi’s past.

“[These buildings] embody the architectural heritage that this country has,” says architect Sanjay Singh, the director of Arcorp, the Delhi based firm behind the project. “I’m willing to debate on any forum whatsoever to put my point forward [against the idea] that these buildings are not modern buildings that do not belong with their roots here.” Singh speaks repeatedly of giving something to the city through architecture rather than taking from it. He believes the new Pragati Maidan will be a strong example of that philosophy. Singh is especially proud of the site’s planned outdoor plazas, fountains and eateries, all easily accessible through the parking lot which will be connected to an air-conditioned basement lobby with an elevator. All of these amenities, he feels, will provide Delhi residents with an “island of sanity” from their otherwise polluted, crowded and unsecure environs. “[Previous architecture] signified, implied the desires, the values of those times. We’re sitting today in 2017. We need infrastructure which is in line with that,” he asserts. “We wish to make a statement that people can come, people can take a stroll in this plaza. You can just be there, sit around, talk to your friends. See the musical fountain, just have a good time.”

But if Singh and Goyal’s dreams for Pragati Maidan are to be realized, they may have more than just criticism of their architecture and urban planning to contend with. Almost five months have passed since the Hall of Nations and several other buildings at Pragati Maidan were demolished, yet work on the site’s redevelopment has barely begun. The delay is somewhat surprising after an ITPO press conference in May where it was announced that work was expected to begin in July. Still, in a conversation with CityLab when that target was clearly going to be missed, Goyal appeared unfazed and remained confident that construction would begin soon. Delays on major projects like Pragati Maidan’s redevelopment are, of course, not uncommon.

- https://www.citylab.com/design/2017/09/whats-next-for-new-delhis-pragati-maidan/540882/, Sep 22, 2017

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What's Next For New Delhi's Pragati Maidan?

When the Hall of Nations—a modernist icon of New Delhi—was razed to the ground in April, the move was decried by many within India’s architectural community. One group, which includes the architect and engineer who designed the structure almost half a century ago, declared the demolition to be “an act of outrage.” As I detailed for CityLab just weeks before the Hall of Nations was torn down, the building was commissioned by the Indian government to host the country’s first major international trade fair in 1972. It also served as a symbol of the country’s progress as a nation 25 years after independence.

The site where the Hall of Nations lay, quite aptly, is known as Pragati Maidan (“Progress Grounds”). There, the building went on to host many fairs and exhibitions over the years. But now, with the dust barely settled from the demolition and its fallout, the Indian government is eyeing progress again through what just might be the most ambitious plans independent India has ever seen. The redevelopment of Pragati Maidan now has an estimated cost of around $385 million. The project centers around the construction of an Integrated Exhibition Convention Center (IECC), equipped with as many as three helipads and a seating capacity of 7,000.

Inside the Hall of Nations building just before its demolition earlier this year. (Ashish Malhotra) From the outside, the IECC will be a modern, elliptical structure with a sloping facade, elevated by a podium under which an amphitheater will host cultural events. On the inside, the building will offer a “window to Delhi”—a view of nearby sights such as the Supreme Court of India, India Gate, and the presidential home, Rashtrapati Bhavan. The overall complex, meant to potentially hold global summit-level events, is also expected to have a 500-room luxury hotel and a parking garage for 4,800 vehicles. LC Goyal is one of the key figures behind the project. A career bureaucrat, Goyal took charge of the India Trade Promotion Organization (ITPO), which oversees Pragati Maidan, in September 2015. The idea of redeveloping the site has been discussed in the past. But during Goyal’s tenure at the ITPO over the past two years, the idea has come closer to fruition than ever before. When meeting Goyal at his Pragati Maidan office to discuss the plans, it’s clear he’s highly invested in the project on a personal level. “I give more than 100 percent to any job that is given to me, all through, right from day one. This is probably the last assignment that I have in the government,” says Goyal.

LC Goyal holds up a copy of the redevelopment plan for Pragati Maidan. (Ashish Malhotra) Though he has no formal background in urban planning or architecture, he quickly got to work on Pragati Maidan’s redevelopment after taking over the ITPO, fully immersing himself in its details, especially an elaborate web of planned traffic interventions around the site aimed at easing congestion in an already heavily clogged area of Delhi. According to a video released by India’s Press Information Bureau in May, at least ten new roads are planned. The centerpiece of the traffic interventions will be a 0.75-mile, six-lane tunnel which will lead into Pragati Maidan’s new underground parking facilities. The tunnel will also link two of the city’s heavily congested roads. Goyal says the traffic interventions will cost around $138 million alone, and cites them as essential part of the project, without which he never would have moved forward. “It was very clear in my mind that I will not take up this project unless it is coupled with traffic interventions….[There is] no point spending so much of money to have a world class complex if I’m not able to ensure uninterrupted, unhindered access,” he says.

Proponents of the project say it’s a golden opportunity to deal with the area’s choked roads. But critics like Swapna Liddle of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) still question the wisdom of constructing a convention center in the middle of an already congested city. “What we were saying is that it would be nice to locate this maybe near the airport,” she explains. “But a big convention center like this, [in the middle of the city] is not the not the best place to have it.” “This is like shopkeepers trying to persuade you to buy something, saying ‘This is the latest!’” Liddle’s concerns run deeper than just traffic. She believes the Pragati Maidan of old was able to draw Delhi residents to intimate fairs and exhibitions in large part because of its location within a nexus of recreational local attractions such as the nearby Old Fort and National Science Center. A convention center, she worries, may not be as a good a fit for the area. “It was a sort of fairground… in keeping with the surrounding institutional structure,” she recalls. “I think a convention center is very different because it involves the coming in of a large number of people who come in from outside, have a conference or whatever it is, and then go out.”

As described by Liddle, the role Pragati Maidan has played in the civic life of post-Independence New Delhi is a reminder of the controversy that surrounded the Hall of Nations’ demolition. Central to the debate was the question over whether the building could be considered “modern heritage.” From the government’s perspective, the answer was ‘no,’ because the building was less than 60 years old. But many architects, historians, and cultural commentators have taken issue with the 60-year threshold, set by Delhi’s Heritage Conservation Committee (HCC). Such critics lament a lack of appreciation for modern heritage, which they see as part of a broader trend that emphasizes flashiness and catchy buzzwords. “The delight in gigantism—the Burj Dubai obsession. A convention center for thousands of people!” quips Narayani Gupta, a renowned historian known for her work on Delhi’s urban history. “Personally, I have no idea what ‘world class’ means.... ‘state of the art’—this is like shopkeepers trying to persuade you to buy something, saying ‘This is the latest!’” she says in reference to the government’s new vision for Pragati Maidan. Though Gupta has long been an advocate for the preservation of Delhi’s urban architecture and art, she knows these issues are not a priority for most of the city’s residents. “Delhi is getting there and has become a more ‘aware’ city than it was some decades earlier. But ‘urban art’ means nothing to people who only think of plots of land and bigger cars, people who do not walk, saunter, or look at the city,” she says. They may have more than just criticism of their architecture and urban planning to contend with. Those behind Pragati Maidan’s redevelopment however, say they struggle to understand the criticism the project has received. They say that while they are focused on progress, their design has still been very conscious of Delhi’s past.

“[These buildings] embody the architectural heritage that this country has,” says architect Sanjay Singh, the director of Arcorp, the Delhi based firm behind the project. “I’m willing to debate on any forum whatsoever to put my point forward [against the idea] that these buildings are not modern buildings that do not belong with their roots here.” Singh speaks repeatedly of giving something to the city through architecture rather than taking from it. He believes the new Pragati Maidan will be a strong example of that philosophy. Singh is especially proud of the site’s planned outdoor plazas, fountains and eateries, all easily accessible through the parking lot which will be connected to an air-conditioned basement lobby with an elevator. All of these amenities, he feels, will provide Delhi residents with an “island of sanity” from their otherwise polluted, crowded and unsecure environs. “[Previous architecture] signified, implied the desires, the values of those times. We’re sitting today in 2017. We need infrastructure which is in line with that,” he asserts. “We wish to make a statement that people can come, people can take a stroll in this plaza. You can just be there, sit around, talk to your friends. See the musical fountain, just have a good time.”

But if Singh and Goyal’s dreams for Pragati Maidan are to be realized, they may have more than just criticism of their architecture and urban planning to contend with. Almost five months have passed since the Hall of Nations and several other buildings at Pragati Maidan were demolished, yet work on the site’s redevelopment has barely begun. The delay is somewhat surprising after an ITPO press conference in May where it was announced that work was expected to begin in July. Still, in a conversation with CityLab when that target was clearly going to be missed, Goyal appeared unfazed and remained confident that construction would begin soon. Delays on major projects like Pragati Maidan’s redevelopment are, of course, not uncommon.

- https://www.citylab.com/design/2017/09/whats-next-for-new-delhis-pragati-maidan/540882/, Sep 22, 2017

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Will GST ring the death knell for the 'Makers' of India?

Before Independence, when the British promoted the sale of their mill-made textiles, Indians rallied around the humble handloom weaver through the swadeshi movement. Almost three months after the introduction of the goods and services tax (GST) regime in India, advocates of the country’s vibrant crafts sector believe that another national movement is required to save our craftsmen from oblivion. “GST regulations don’t differentiate between handmade and machine-made products,” says Ritu Sethi of the Delhi-based craft advocacy non-profit organisation Craft Revival Trust. “By levying the same tax slabs on both categories, some punitively high, the government is making the handmade sector — already struggling to compete with machine-made products — further commercially unviable!”

The statistics bear her out. According to the 2009-10 Handloom Census, more than 4.3 million people were engaged in weaving and allied activities, down from 6.55 million in the previous Census in 1995-96. After the GST, as craftspeople report huge drops in sales, which they can ill-afford, craft sector advocates believe that more craftspeople will quit their traditional crafts and move to other occupations. Let us consider the average profile of an Indian handloom artisan, the latest entrant to the GST’s ambit. According to a 2014 study by KPMG for the National Skill Development Corporation, 84 per cent of weavers live in villages. Many belong to scheduled castes and tribes and minority groups. The sub-sector largely comprises women workers, of whom 71 per cent are illiterate, with underdeveloped marketing skills and low standards of living.

“Now imagine — these are the people the government expects will file their GST online, three times a month!” comments Meeta Mastani, co-founder of Bindaas Collective, a social enterprise that sources directly from craftspeople. “All my vendors, even the ones who’re relatively educated, are struggling with this.” Krishna Kumar, her block printer in Kaladera (Jaipur), says: “Many printers in my craft cluster are thinking of closing their small-scale businesses and taking up jobwork instead. Others have already started selling to traders, who will take on their GST burden for a commission, instead of selling directly.”

- http://www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/will-gst-ring-the-death-knell-for-the-makers-of-india-117092300061_1.html, Sep 23, 2017

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Naeem Akhtar for eco-restoration of roads

Expressing alarm over the decreasing green cover in Srinagar city, Minister for Public Works Naeem Akhtar today said the government is taking up eco-restoration roads in the capital city in a mission mode with plantation and development of green spaces. The Minister was speaking at a meeting to review the implementation of eco-restoration plan for roads. The meeting was attended by CEO Srinagar Smart City project, DR Farooq Ahmad Lone, Chief Engineer R&B, Abdul Hamid, Commissioner SMC, DR Shafkat Khan MD JKPCC, Dileep Thussu, Director ERA, Satish Razdan, INTACH state convener Saleem Beigh and other officials. The Minister said over the years, the green cover has reduced considerably in the city and the trend needs to be reversed by developing road sides. He directed the officials to take help of experts and start eco-restoration plan at the earliest.

"Cities like Tokyo and Washington DC are known for their cherry blossom, Amsterdam for river front, Paris for heritage buildings and so on. Fortunately we have everything but only development and maintenance is needed," said Akhtar. The Minister also directed the officials to keep a provision of a certain percentage of funds in every road project for beautification and aesthetically designing the road. The Minister also took note of the development of area under the under construction Jehangir Chowk-Rambagh flyover. The Minister directed the officials to utilize the space available in a scientific manner.

- http://www.greaterkashmir.com/news/kashmir/naeem-akhtar-for-eco-restoration-of-roads/261026.html, Sep 23, 2017

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Meet Suresh Kumar Who is Keeping The Legacy of Kerala’s Nettur Petti Alive

Every state in India has artefacts and aesthetic crafts that are unique to it. Usually, the fine technique behind such artwork dates back to a couple of centuries. In Kerala, the Nettur Petti is one such artefact of historical significance. A jewel box – it was used by women in the royal and aristocratic families as well as in temples to store the ornaments of the idol. This petti (box) is named after Nettur, the village in Kerala where the craft is believed to have originated. VV Suresh Kumar is from a family of traditional wood craftsmen.

- https://www.thebetterindia.com/116553/reviving-traditional-craft-kerala-the-nettur-petti-suresh-satisfaction/, Sep 23, 2017

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Five tribal dialect dictionaries to help preserve culture

Tribal dialect dictionaries have finally seen light of the day in India, thanks to pioneering works in the field by the scientists of Tribal Research Institute (TRI) of Chhattisgarh government. The body has come out with five tribal dialect dictionaries by compiling five tribal languages spoken in different parts of the state. “Dictionaries of tribal dialects, Halwi, Kuruk, Bhatri, Gondi and Parji have been published recently,” Dr Anil Virulkar, anthropoligist and scientist in TRI told this newspaper on last week. He said Halwa, Oraon, Bhatra, Gond and Paraja tribes speak these dialects. The dictionaries with a common title “Hindi Bhadri Vartalap Nirdesika” have been written in Hindi as these tribal dialects have no script or font of their own.

“The aim behind bringing out these dictionaries was to preserve tribal dialects and culture by passing them on to the current and next generation of tribals who have distanced themselves from their culture and ethos in a bid to seek a better life. The move will also help save many endangered tribal dialects from extinction,” Dr Virulkar said. Chhattisgarh is home to 46 different tribes. At least three tribal dialects — Binjwari spoken by Binjwar tribes, Kharwari spoken by Kharwar tribals and Kamari of Kamar tribe have nearly gone extinct. These three tribes have a total population of around 3 lakhs. The researchers dealing in ethnology have been working on it for several decades with an aim to preserve endangered tribal languages. “At last, our decade-long efforts have paid dividends. We are in the process of bringing out tribal dialect dictionaries in several other dialects in a few months,” Dr Virulkar said.

It was a “very challenging” job to compile tribal dialects for bringing out the dictionaries. Three TRI regional offices at Jagdalpur, Bastar headquarters, Ambikapur, divisional headquarters of Sarguja and Bilashpur in Chhattisgarh were engaged in compiling the tribal dialects for the dictionaries, Dr Virulkar said. Retired tribal teachers and government officials and others were also roped in to help the institute’s officials gather spoken tribal words in their respective regions during their field visits to different tribal areas in the three regions. “We focused on tribal dialects, spoken in day-to-day conversation in the dictionaries,” he said.

One thing, the institute came to know during its research was that the tribal folk lore and folk songs have a rich literary value, Dr Virulkar said. More importantly, “our pioneering works will help materialise the state government’s on-going initiative to teach tribal students at the primary education level in their own dialects”, he added. Besides, “the dictionaries will also come to aid of security forces engaged in counterinsurgency in tribal-dominated region of Bastar to bridge communication gap between them and the local tribals”, a senior TRI officer told this newspaper.

Fight against extinction Dictionaries of tribal dialects, Halwi, Kuruk, Bhatri, Gondi and Parji have been published recently by TRI, Chhattisgarh Titled “Hindi Bhadri Vartalap Nirdesika”, the dictionaries were composed in Hindi as the dialects have no script or font of their own The states is home to 46 tribes. Three dialects have gone extinct Retired tribal teachers and government officials were also roped in to gather spoken tribal words in their respective regions The institute says the aim was to preserve the tribal dialects and culture by passing them on to the current and next generation of tribals

Schooling aid More importantly, “our pioneering works will help materialise the government’s on-going initiative to teach tribal students at the primary education level in their own dialects”, he said. Besides, “the dictionaries will also come to aid of security forces engaged in counterinsurgency in tribal-dominated region of Bastar”, Dr Virulkar added.

- http://www.asianage.com/india/all-india/230917/five-tribal-dialect-dictionaries-to-help-preserve-culture.html, Sep 23, 2017

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ASI begins monuments’ clean-up

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is cleaning up close to 60 monuments in the state in Mumbai, Pune, Satara, Raigad and other districts as a part of the Swachch Bharat Abhiyan till September 30. The exercise is part of the ASI's 'Swachhata Pakhwada', which will include cleanliness drives. Some activities planned include a cleaning campaign with NGOs and school children, a workshop on the monument premises on 'Swachhata Mission', an exhibition on the execution of Swachhata Mission, polythene-free drive with school children and NGOs, among others.

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/pune/asi-begins-monuments-clean-up/articleshow/60799688.cms, Sep 23, 2017

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Choked cities go under: DNA examines how vanishing water bodies & green spaces causing urban sprawls to sink

The June-to-September season — a lifeline for the country's agriculture and economy — mostly pours miseries in Indian cities. Rains do little in recharging groundwater and infusing life into the dying rivers, but lead to flooding that derails rail, road and air traffic, damages infrastructure and kills people. And it's a rising trend: Mumbai (2005), Surat (2006), Kolkata (2007), Hyderabad (2008), Delhi (2009 & 2010), Guwahati (2010), Srinagar (2014), Chennai (2015), Gurugram (2016) and Mumbai (2016 & 2017). The causes are many: Poorly laid and clogged drains; badly planned urbanisation with no concern for topography; massive concretisation and destruction of floodplains, lakes, marshlands and wetlands; faulty road networks with little care for culverts; unbridled tree felling and vegetation removal; and climate change. Corrupt civic bodies that flout court orders with impunity have deepened the mess.

On August 29, Mumbai ground to a halt after it rained 315.8 mm in 12 hours. The downpour was about a third of what the city had received on July 26, 2005. The cloudburst-induced deluge and its aftermath 12 years ago had claimed about 700 lives. But nothing much was learnt. Many of the drains in India's financial capital remained choked.Delhi's several stormwater drains have also been covered to build shops and parking lots. Others carry domestic sewage and industrial waste. Lining of drains is also causing floods. In fact, Delhi has not had a drainage master plan in four decades when its population went up by 350 per cent to 18 million. A new plan looks at fixing existing drains. But relief is not expected anytime soon. Authorities need Rs 19,500 crore and 20 years to lay 9,500 km of sewer lines to allow drains to carry only rainwater.

Stopgap measures will also take three years.Kolkata has similar problems. One of the three natural channels which carried away the city's sewage and rain has been terminated by Metro construction. This causes floods in several areas. "Gully pits are chocked with plastic and garbage… How will pumping stations work?" asks renowned ecologist Dhrubajyoti Ghosh.Several parts of Mumbai are below sea level. So, when there is high tide, accompanied by heavy rains, waterlogging is unavoidable. The real crisis is, the drainage system can deal with about 25 mm of rain per hour. Current projects are expected to double it to 50 mm.

But the city often records much more rainfall and faces massive flooding.Delhi, on its part, did well before it began growing rapidly. Historically, its residential pockets never faced waterlogging. Mehrauli, Shahjahanabad, Civil Lines, Delhi Cantonment were all built on elevated grounds that were easily drained. Urbanisation in low-lying and poorly drained areas disregarded topography in both cities.On December 1, 2015, Chennai was ravaged as it received its heaviest rainfall in decades. A Parliamentary panel report later blamed encroachment of lakes and floodplains for the floods. According to water expert S Janakarajan, Chennai's IT corridor and other institutions got inundated in 2015 because more than 90 per cent of the city's 7,000-hectare wetlands had been destroyed over the years.

"All three rivers in Chennai — Kosasthalayar, Cooum and Adyar — are now sewage carriers, but they can still prevent flooding, provided they are de-silted and freed of encroachments," he says. There are 3,600 lakes in the two upstream districts of Tiruvallur and Kancheepuram that can hold over 100 tmcft (thousand million cubic feet) of water. "We still allowed 250 people to die, and an economic loss of Rs 20,000 crore."Mumbai has also seen destruction. Vast swathes of floodplains, mangroves and wetlands are gone. The city's four rivers, draining rainwater into the sea, are facing massive pollution and encroachment.

Environmentalist Stalin D rues that the Mithi river today has its mouth pinched.In Delhi, the Yamuna looks like a black noxious thread during the lean season. About half of the 1,000-odd water bodies registered with the government have actually vanished. Manoj Misra of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan says the catchments of remaining water bodies have been cut off for housing and other constructions, impeding the flow of storm-period water to them. "This is happening even today in the so-called planned manner in North Delhi," he says.In Delhi, most soft areas have been paved over, and plots are concretised end to end. Studies show that the amount of water that would not seep into the ground has gone up from 50 per cent to 85 per cent in recent years, causing massive flooding. Mumbai also faces inundation of roads as concrete building compounds have shrunk areas for percolation of water.

Manu Bhatnagar of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage says cities must adopt porous paving. "There should be at least 25 per cent open area as soft green."Scientists warn that flooding events will become more frequent due to climate change. The World Bank's forecast of 20 cm of sea level rise by 2050 would make Kolkata — on average, barely five metres above sea level — dangerously exposed to flooding risks. Independent environment journalist Nivedita Khandekar says the crisis is already spreading fast. "Scores of areas and streets in Hyderabad were flooded only a few days ago. Same causes."Water expert Himanshu Thakkar says urban areas need to drastically scale up their capacity to manage rainfall and waste water.

"Tidal conditions have to be kept in mind for cities such as Mumbai, Kolkata, or Chennai. Cities such as Ahmedabad, Bharuch, Cuttack or Surat need to take into account heavy upstream releases." All this has to be assessed annually, since carrying capacities of drains, rainfall and flow patterns change. Noted water conservationist Janak Daftari demands clear demarcation of open spaces, rivers, water bodies and floodplains and their protection. "Nature has designed srishti for water to flow into the ground or a water body. We must stop making it 'stand' and wreak havoc."

- http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-choked-cities-go-under-2547922, Sep 24, 2017

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Bhatkal’s heritage houses a treat for the eye

Bhatkal town, located on the shores of Arabian Sea, has passed through the rule of several dynasties. And this is very evident from the architectural diversity in the town. In the interiors of Bhatkal town, heritage buildings influenced by Islamic architecture are a sight for architectural enthusiasts. Most of these houses belong to Nawayaths of the Muslim community who are concentrated in Uttara Kannada and Udupi districts. The Nawayaths claim to have come to India from Arabia in the 8th century as traders, thus bringing with them influences of the architecture pre-dominant in their native regions. The 103-year-old Barani House here is a perfect example that embodies Islamic architecture. It was constructed in 1914 by Mohtishan Mohammad Meera, a textile businessman. Even after a century, the house which was made using teak wood stands stronger than concrete house. Mohtishan Mohammad Jafar, who is the grandson of Meera, says, “Many people from the state and abroad come to see our house.

We are proud to live in such a beautiful house. While constructing the house, my grandfather may not have imagined that it would become such a big attraction, but today it is of heritage value.” The 73-year-old Jafar recalls, “When I was very young, my grandpa used to tell me how he constructed the house and how he did the interior decoration. The design of the house has influences of architecture styles pervalent in Middle Eastern countries, but it was constructed by experts from Kerala.

The teak wood used for the construction too was brought from Kerala.”Decorative items for the house were imported from the Middle East and stained window glasses were specially ordered from Mumbai. The construction was completed in 1914, says Jafar. “I don’t know how much he spent to construct the house. At present, we spend nearly a lakh to paint all the walls and wooden itmes in the house,” says Jafar, who runs a textile business in Mumbai. The Barani House is palatial with six big halls, four small halls, eight bedrooms, two big kitchens with a large balcony and two dining halls. The house also has a big storehouse which is the size of four bedrooms in the house put together. Another such house is the Moulana Bungalow, which is bigger in size than the Barani House.

- http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/karnataka/2017/sep/24/bhatkals-heritage-houses-a-treat-for-the-eye-1661883.html, Sep 24, 2017

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Delhi Golf Club: Six ‘lesser-known’ tombs to get a facelift soon

Tucked behind creepers, cobwebs, dry leaves and wild trees is the tomb of a mysterious Mir Taqi. The grave in the central chamber is missing, and its inhabitants, an odd pigeon or two, care little about the men playing golf outside or the carts that scurry around the Delhi Golf Club. Inside the haunt of the rich and famous are ruins of mosques and tombs of the lesser-known, and Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) has got the nod from the Delhi government to restore six of them.

“Apart from the tomb of Mir Taqi, there is a mosque dating back to the late-Mughal era, another tomb dating back to 1779-80 AD, tomb of a Sayyid Abid from 1626-27 AD, a Bagichi and another unknown tomb, inside the Golf Club…these are the ones we will restore,” said Swapna Liddle, convener, INTACH. While one unknown tomb — which overlooks the posh Golf Links — forms the background to a lot of the tournaments that take place at the Delhi Golf Club, others stand aloof and exist as references for tee-off points. While basic restoration work should be over by the end of the year, INTACH is faced with a peculiar problem — the deadly golf ball. “We can’t walk till the monuments, we have to take the golf cart. It’s fine right now because only documentation is going on but it will be tough when actual physical restoration begins,” added Liddle.

It’s a busy weekday at the Delhi Golf Club, as patrons enjoy a game or two, and only the brave — like a black-headed ibis with its long beak — walk on the grass. “If the ball hits anyone, it can be fatal. This heritage at the Delhi Golf Club should be maintained, but we cannot let anyone walk around. People play golf here from dawn to dusk,” said Rajiv Hora, club secretary. Apart from the danger of being hit by the otherwise harmless looking golf ball, INTACH workers also need to take permission from the Club every time they need to work. “When some event like a tournament is taking place there, they won’t allow us. Timing is restricted,” said Liddle. Apart from these six monuments, INTACH has also got permission to restore 13 more lesser-known monuments such as Kharbuze Ka Gumbad inside Panchsheel Public School and Hastsal Minar in Palam. “With the Delhi government, we aim at protecting what is hitherto unprotected. We try and take up the lesser-known,” said Liddle.

Outside the tomb of Sayyid Abid lies a feather of a kite, and from a distance, a muster of peacocks soak in the weather. There are no inscriptions, love notes or graffiti on the walls of these six monuments. “This is because the monuments are inside the protected premises of the Club…no one has the time to go inside these monuments, nor will the patrons harm it in any way,” said a Golf Club official.

- http://indianexpress.com/article/cities/delhi/delhi-golf-club-six-lesser-known-tombs-to-get-a-facelift-soon-4859701/, Sep 24, 2017

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Pothana Vignana Peetham in Warangal city set for a facelift

After several decades of neglect, the Pothana Vignana Peetham, which was set up to promote the art and literature besides preserving Pothana’s legacy, is all set to get a facelift soon. Thanks to the efforts of authorities of the Greater Warangal Municipal Corporation (GWMC) and special chief secretary BP Acharya who is much keen on modernising the Peetham. As a part of the efforts, a digital museum on saint poet Bammera Pothana will be coming up on the premises with an estimated cost of Rs 1 crore. Noted curator Birad Rajaram Yajni has been roped in the project to develop this modern museum. Rajaram is known for his creation the ‘King – Gandhi Wall’ — an interactive art installation on Dr Martin Luther King Jr and Mahatma Gandhi at the Howard University in Washington D.C.

According to INTACH convener and former professor of NIT M Panduranga Rao, all the available literature, including the manuscripts of poet Pothana, would be digitised as a part of the project. “The museum will have different screens, and some of them are touch screens. If a visitor presses on an icon on the screen, audio and video will be played about that particular subject,” Panduranga Rao explained. GWMC Commissioner Shruti Ojha, Pothana Viganna Peetham secretary Kishan Rao, Birad Rajaram and Panduranga Rao visited the peetham about a week ago to take stock of the situation.

It may be noted here that the peetham was established in 1980 following the efforts of then External Affairs Minister PV Narasimha Rao. According to the GWMC officials, an open air theatre, which was constructed on the premises, will also be developed after completing the museum. While the tenders will be called for soon, the works may commence in about one-and-a-half months. “We are expecting that the works will be completed in about six months,” Panduranga Rao added. It may be noted here that a special purpose vehicle (SPV) is looking after setting up Pothana memorial at Bammera village in Palakurthy mandal in Jangaon district with Rs 7.5 crore.

- https://telanganatoday.com/pothana-vignana-peetham-warangal-city-set-facelift, Sep 25, 2017

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‘We’re hurting the environment, but we can fix it too’

I grew up amid raucous family debates on large dams and their impacts on rivers and lives. Those conversations seem to have burned themselves deep into my psyche because, as a young graduate, one item topped my bucket list: traverse the major river systems of India to document the changes to ecosystems and life. There was only one way to tell these stories: through slow journalism. I decided to focus on the Ganga-Brahmaputra basin, the largest and most populated basin in the world, home to over 800 million people and rich with biodiversity. Slow journalism meant following stories and lives in the basin over seasons, years, generations so that one does not fall into the trap of reducing them to one-time snapshots, and instead, make space for natural narrative trajectories that change with time. And so, over the past five years, I have been crisscrossing the basin, watching it evolve and change, writing and shooting this evolution.

Our freshwater reserves are thin
If you could create a giant cube and pack into it all the drinking water in the world, that cube would sit nicely upon the city of Bengaluru. Take just the world’s rivers, lakes, and wetlands and you would be able to fit it inside a cube with a side of only 13km. Not a whole lot, is it?We wear a very thin freshwater skin. If we rupture it, defile it, scar it, drain it, we will hurt badly. In this industrial age, however, the demands on rivers, lakes, wetlands and aquifers are plenty. The Anthropocene era—an age defined by massive water extraction, deforestation, declining biodiversity and water scarcity—with the added unpredictability of the monsoon through climate change makes for a perfect storm of bad news.And the threats to freshwater species are realFreshwater species are becoming endangered at a far more alarming rate than are terrestrial or marine species, having declined 81 percent in the last 40 years, according to a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report. In contrast, terrestrial and marine species’ numbers have fallen 38 percent and 36 percent respectively in the same period.

This is largely because of habitat destruction. Rivers, lakes and wetlands are increasingly being interrupted, fragmented, filled in, sucked dry. Ecosystem-wide threats come sometimes suddenly…My work takes me to the ground zero of these disasters. For example, I reached the Bangladeshi Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest straddling the border between Bangladesh and India, a few days after a horrific oil spill. This forest is one of the most biodiverse environments, home to several endangered species, including the six species of dolphins, the Bengal tiger and the masked finfoot. What I saw there stunned me.A staggering 3,58,000 litres of heavy fuel oil coated the mangroves in a thick black stripe 3m high, and the waters were varying shades of black and brown.

The oil was sloshing up and down with the tides, painting everything in its wake. An unfortunate saltwater crocodile sat on the banks, coated in oil. Worse still, fishermen, women and children were walking about barefoot, sans gloves or masks cleaning up the oil by hand. The government was nowhere to be seen.The mishap in Bangladesh serves as a dark foreboding of things to come, for the threat to biodiversity from hazardous shipping traffic on rivers is not on that side of the border alone.But often slowly, with infrastructure.Last summer, I was in the only designated Gangetic dolphin sanctuary in India, in eastern Bihar. The Ganga’s water levels were at an all-time low due to dams holding back massive amounts of water for irrigation upstream. Dredgers had gone about their business within the sanctuary and moored for the day.

Along the river, where there should have been amazing sightings—nearly 100 dolphins should have been sighted—we spotted one. The scientists who were with me had a good idea why. Their studies have found that dredging affects Gangetic dolphins—the oldest of all cetacean species—adversely, interfering with their sonar, altering their habitat, and pushing them away.In the Tawang region of Arunachal Pradesh, the legally protected black-necked crane, sacred to many Buddhist sects, got a lease of life after the National Green Tribunal stayed the construction of a power plant. These birds are particularly affected by the loss and degradation of their habitat—wetlands. Any rise in water levels can submerge their nests; the drying up of lakes exposes the nests to predation.Land-use change is wreaking havoc on not only freshwater species but also on creatures that use riverine forests.

Similarly, small, isolated populations of the endangered white-winged duck—Assam’s state bird that relies on wetlands—are declining due to habitat loss, with scientists guessing that the species will go extinct in about 25 years.

Land-use change is wreaking havoc on not only freshwater species but also on creatures that use riverine forests. The shy red panda inhabits gentle slopes of bamboo forests close to water sources, where cattle herders and their domestic dogs also frequent. Red pandas are extremely vulnerable to a disease called canine distemper, which crosses species from domestic dogs. Moreover, bamboo forests are increasingly fragmented and, following a flowering and die-off, bamboo forests don’t regenerate in the face of deforestation and environmental degradation.

Red panda populations have declined by 50 percent in the last two decades.Now, more than ever, development is threatening species like the Gangetic dolphin, the Indus dolphin, turtles, gharials—not to mention large swathes of forests, and numerous species of freshwater fish and flora. Moreover, the people who live close to these water sources and depend on them for their livelihood find themselves stripped of their traditional way of life and forced into penury.As an independent environmental photographer and writer, I have chosen to bear witness to these changes, shining a light on the havoc we are wreaking on the freshwater ecosystem, and its fallout, which stands to affect us all. On this journey, I seek your company—your eyes and ears, your interest and your support—in the hope that, together, we can raise the profile of some of these issues and, maybe, stem the current bleed.

- https://www.cntraveller.in/story/hurting-environment-can-fix/, Sep 25, 2017

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Statue of Badhrakali Discovered in Southern India

TAMIL NADU, INDIA—India.com reports that a statue of the goddess Bhadrakali has been unearthed in southern India. The statue, which measures about 40 inches tall, is estimated to be 1,000 years old. It depicts the crowned goddess sitting on a block of stone, with her left foot stamping a demigod, and her right foot resting on a platform. In her arms she holds a skull, a trident, a drum, a shield, weapons, and bells. “The expression of anger on the face had been beautifully depicted by the sculptor,” said archaeologist V. Narayanamoorthy. “It looks very natural.” For more, go to “Letter From India: Living Heritage at Risk.”

- https://www.archaeology.org/news/5941-170925-india-bhadra-kali-statue, Sep 25, 2017

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Statue of Badhrakali Discovered in Southern India

TAMIL NADU, INDIA—India.com reports that a statue of the goddess Bhadrakali has been unearthed in southern India. The statue, which measures about 40 inches tall, is estimated to be 1,000 years old. It depicts the crowned goddess sitting on a block of stone, with her left foot stamping a demigod, and her right foot resting on a platform. In her arms she holds a skull, a trident, a drum, a shield, weapons, and bells. “The expression of anger on the face had been beautifully depicted by the sculptor,” said archaeologist V. Narayanamoorthy. “It looks very natural.” For more, go to “Letter From India: Living Heritage at Risk.”

- https://www.archaeology.org/news/5941-170925-india-bhadra-kali-statue, Sep 25, 2017

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ASI urges educational institutions to adopt heritage monuments

To promote heritage sites and monuments, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has decided to reach out to members of the public with a special focus on children. The ASI has written to Education department urging it to direct educational institutions to adopt a monument or a site for one year and partner with ASI in protecting them. K Moortheswari, Superintending Archaeologist, ASI told DH: “Tourism for people is adventure and nature. Little attention is paid to heritage sites and monuments. So, we want to reach out to members of the public, students and children in particular."

Keeping this year’s theme- Sustainable Tourism- A Tool for Development and, the Swachch Bharat mission in mind, ASI has taken this decision. “The idea is to protect the site better by involving people. Children from educational institutions will have the opportunity to visit the monument or site adopted for the whole year. A certificate from ASI will be given after one year. The institution will be given the responsibility to keep the place clean and create awareness among public,” she said. Earlier, ASI had partnered with NCC and NSS. The ASI is now joining hands with some Kendriya Sadans.

To add least known places, ASI has now urged citizens to suggest places which they think have unique and heritage value to be included in the list of protected monuments and sites. “So far, 130 protected sites from Bengaluru, 250 from Dharwad and 85 from Hampi are being protected by ASI. But there are many lesser known places and, citizens are requested to send us some details of the site. The ASI team is already working on two sites in Ballari and one in Somanathpur,” Moortheswari added.

- http://www.deccanherald.com/content/634973/asi-urges-educational-institutions-adopt.html, Sep 26, 2017

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Odisha: Mangalajodi Ecotourism Project opened their camp on International Tourism Day

The Mangalajodi Ecotourism Project have opened their camp today on International Tourism Day. The opening was done by Shri Amiya Bhusan Tripathy, (IPS) Retd, the former Director General of Police, and the State Convener of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH).Over the last seven years, Mangalajodi has now carved a place in world tourism map because of unique conservation method adopted by the villagers which has resulted in the highest congregation of migratory birds in the Chilika Lake. Speaking on the occasion, Tripathy said that tourism, and particularly eco-tourism, has great potential in boosting the local economy and creating jobs. The delicate ecosystem of the Chilika Lake, a world Ramsar Site, can be developed into a major tourist destination for both the domestic and foreign tourists. He said that Odisha has a rich heritage, both tangible and intangible, which can draw huge number of tourists if proper facilities are created. He has promised that INTACH would conduct awareness and sensitizing programmes for the local stakeholders and agencies working in the area.

Anil Dhir said that the Mangalajodi experiment should be a role model for other community based conservation programmes. The manner in which they have motivated and engaged the local poachers to give up the killing of birds and transformed them into guardians is a commendable job. The Project has inculcated a sense of professionalism in the stakeholders, and created a lot of awareness in the management of the environment and protection of the migratory birds. The setting up and running of the Ecotourism Camp is a success story Mangalajodi has carved a place in the world tourism map, it has been rechristened as a “Birds Paradise” and has become the prime spot for birders and bird photographers. Sanjiv Sarangi of the Indian Grameen Services said that the villagers of the place have worked hard and with motivation to transform the poachers’ village into a world class tourist place.

The project is a good example of community leadership and team building. The transformation of this sleepy lakeside village into a tourist spot which has become the choice destination of bird and nature lovers from all over the world speaks of the success. The manner in which the villagers have adopted ecofriendly living conditions in their camp, and the plastic free environment and all round hygiene, are an example of community involvement. He lauded the efforts of the stakeholders and said that there had been consistent and considerable growth in the visitors every year. The opening was attended by many of the locals. The first guests were welcomed to the Camp. Incidentally, the migratory birds have already started arriving at the Lake.

- https://orissadiary.com/odisha-mangalajodi-ecotourism-project-opened-camp-international-tourism-day/, Sep 27, 2017

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Unplanned urbanisation a risk to UT’s green heritage, says Wattas

Chandigarh College of Architecture former principal Prof Rajnish Wattas recently explained the idea of trees being used as an element in the urban design of the city, to the students and faculty of the prestigious Graduate School of Design at Harvard University, US. Prof Wattas, a heritage expert on the city's architectural and landscape heritage, delivered the lecture, titled 'Chandigarh: City in Gardern — Trees as Elements of Urban Design', to a gathering of the design school, whose department of landscape architecture had organized the event in collaboration with the university's South Asia Institute. During the session, he examined the massive unbridled urbanisation of Chandigarh and its adjoining satellite towns (Panchkula and Mohali), and this collectively posing a huge threat to the city's future status as India's "garden and oxygen capital". Prof Wattas said more than 65 years ago, when Chandigarh was conceived, it was intended to be purely an administrative city with limited population, modelled on green, low-rise cities inspired by the 'Garden City' movement of Britain. "Contrary to general misconceptions regarding Le Corbusier's "brutalist" architecture and perceived subjugation of nature by powerful built forms, he always looked at landscape as integral to the 'ideal city', and establishing site and structure unity,'" said Wattas.

He elaborated that the coming together of Corbusier and the city's founders proved to be a rare conjunction of two prime forces sharing a common vision. Corbusier's tryst with destination happened really in Chandigarh, as he could finally implement his numerous untested urban theories on ground. The audio-visual presentation examined the above-mentioned aspects and revealed that the original landscaping concepts had a major focus on tree plantation as the dominant element of its urban design, embroidered seamlessly into its fabric. A comparison was made between the original precepts and their actual implementation on ground. Key faculty members of Harvard who attended the lecture were: department of landscape architecture head Prof Silvia Benedito and Prof Rahul Mehrotra of the urban planning department.

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chandigarh/unplanned-urbanisation-a-risk-to-uts-green-heritage-says-wattas/articleshow/60847883.cms, Sep 27, 2017

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Ujjain: Archaelogical Survey of India takes firm stand on Jyotirlingam erosion

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has made over a dozen recommendations to restrict erosion of the Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlingam and conserve the temples’ courtyard. The ASI has suggested restricting the use of different chemical-mixed materials of worship and also entry into the garbh-griha (sanctum-sanctorum).

Sarika Guru, a city social worker, had moved a special leave petition (1) (15459/2017) in the Supreme Court in this regard. The petitioner, through her counsel Ashok Chitle, along with Anand Bhatt, had sought ban on ‘panchamrut shringar’ of the Mahakal Jyotirlingam on the pattern of Mallikarjuna, Somnath, Omkareshwar Jyotirlingas, as such practice led to erosion of the Shiv Lingas. Likewise, she demanded that devotees be restricted from touching the presiding deity at Mahakaleshwar Temple, as no such practice is followed anywhere among the12 Jyotirlingas of the country. Major temples do not allow entry at the ‘garbh griha’, besides the Jyotirlinga temples, she highlighted in the SLP. The apex court had constituted an expert committee for the study, survey,analysis and examination of the Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlingam.

- http://www.freepressjournal.in/ujjain/ujjain-archaelogical-survey-of-india-takes-firm-stand-on-jyotirlingam-erosion/1143839, Sep 27, 2017

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Artefacts of historical interest unearthed

They are said to belong to the Megalithic age and Sangam period. A team of local amateur archaeologists has discovered celt and other artefacts, said to belong to Megalithic age and Sangam period, at Bogalur near here. The team of archaeologists of Ramanathapuram Archaeological Research Foundation, led by its president V. Rajaguru, found the artefacts near the Mullaikottai Muneeswarar Temple on the banks of Kaathan odai.

‘First such finding’
“This is the first new stone age artefacts discovered in the district and the findings clearly indicated that neolithic or new stone age people led a settled life in the area till the Sangam age,” Mr. Rajaguru told The Hindu. After schoolteachers Gandhi and Bhoominathan informed about potsherds strewn in an area of 40 acres near the temple, he, along with association secretary Gnanakalimuthu and research scholar Hari Gopalakrishnan, conducted an exploration and found the celt and other artefacts. The stone celt measured 7 cm in length and 5.5 cm in width, he said, adding it was also found well-polished and sharpened. The tool had some holes in the upper portion and this could be due to long use.The tool would have been used with a wooden handle, he added.The team also found a grinding stone, sling stone, graffiti marked potsherds, pot stand, black and red potsherds, spindle whorls, hopscotches, broken part of terracotta kettle, terracotta handle, piece of deer horn, iron ore and iron slags. The iron-based artefacts indicated that megalithic age people also lived in the area, he said.

Tamil Brahmi letter
A black and red potsherd had the graffiti of Tamil Brahmi letter and another had trident graffiti and these artefacts could be 2,000 years old and belong to the Sangam period, he said. The sling stone was in use since new stone age and it was used for hunting as well as safety, he said. A lush green Miswak, a medicinal plant native to Palai, one of the five landscapes of Sangam period, was found in the area. He suggested that it was an ideal location for exaction by the Archaeological Survey of India or the State Department of Archaeology, he said.

- http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-tamilnadu/artefacts-of-historical-interest-unearthed/article19760064.ece, Sep 27, 2017

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Musallam Jang Pul wallows in neglect

A century old structure of Musallam Jang Pul (Muslim Jung Pool) is in a dilapidated condition due to negligence by officials. Many stone grills (side walls) of the bridge are broken and the bridge is damaged at several places. Vegetation grown on the eastern side of the bridge, pose a threat to the structure. It was constructed in the 1893 by the sixth Nizam Mir Mahboob Ali Khan and later rebuilt after the 1908 Musi River floods. The structure has been facing the apathy of officials for a long time. A new bridge was constructed parallel to the Musallam Jang Bridge a few years ago to ease the movement of traffic. But the new bridge completely shadowed the older one.Historians, archaeology enthusiasts and other social groups would observe the commemoration day of Musi River Floods on September 28.

- http://www.thehansindia.com/posts/index/Telangana/2017-09-27/Musallam-Jang-Pul-wallows-in-neglect/329322, Sep 27, 2017

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Stone tools from paleolithic age found near gaddalasari waterfall

Bhupalpally district, well known for the Bogatha waterfalls, is home to another breathtaking waterfall less known to people, the Gaddalasari waterfall, which is also an archaeologically important site. A city-based historian, who recently visited the site found some stone tools belonging from the Paleolithic age. The stone tools were found about a hundred metres away along the course of a stream of water from the point where water from the Gaddalasari waterfall lands. As per the historian Dyavanapalli Satyanarayana, the site was reached by him by walk 9 kilometers from Ramachandrapuram village in the Cherla-Venkatapur forest division. He said that he could reach the spot with the help from some of the tribals staying in the village.

Satyanarayana claimed that the waterfall got its name from Telugu word, Gaddalu, which means Eagle, as the waterfall’s height seems as tall as the height at which eagles fly. He also claimed that the less known waterfall can easily be among the tallest in India as it’s height is about 700 feet. The Gaddalasari waterfall site falls very close to the Selibaka site mentioned by well known archaeologist Thakur Raja Ram Singh, who explored areas along course of river Godavari from Basara till Bhadrachalam, covering the erstwhile districts of Adilabad, Nizamabad, Karimnagar, Warangal and Khammam. His discoveries appeared in 1984 in the Journal of Archaeology, which included findings related to paleolithic stone tools, living conditions of the paleolithic man, flora and fauna of that time.

- http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/telangana/2017/sep/27/stone-tools-from-paleolithic-age-found-near-gaddalasari-waterfall-1663321.html, Sep 27, 2017

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Godavari dance festival from today

All arrangements have been made for the two-day Godavari Dance and Lantern Festival at Kotilingala Ghat in the city, which begins on Wednesday. RMC Commissioner V Vijaya Rama Raju who inspected the arrangements on Tuesday, said the festival showcasing the rich cultural heritage of Godavari region would be held from 5 to 9:30 pm on both the days. About 50,000 people are expected to witness the cultural extravaganza on the banks of Godavari river.

The environs of Kotilingala Ghat have been spruced up for the event. About 100 artistes will present a theme song highlighting the glory of Godavari river as part of the festival. Percussionist Sivamani, Kuchipudi and Bharatanatyam exponent Ananda Shankar, playback singer Simha and others are participating in the two-day cultural event. There will also be spectacular fireworks display. All steps have been taken to ensure the success of the event being organised by the Akhanda Godavari Project to mark World Tourism Day, the RMC Commissioner said.

- http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/andhra-pradesh/2017/sep/27/godavari-dance-festival-from-today-1663306.html, Sep 27, 2017

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Govt. now decides to hire private agency for tourism project report

In the 2015 budget, the State government granted Rs. 10 crore for Vijayapura district for improving tourism sector. The funds were given to the district administration and the authority to spend it by getting a project plan approved by the State government. By this time, the money should have been spent on various development projects to improve tourism sector of the district.But The Hindu has learnt that after two years, the government has changed the plan where it has decided to implement the projects through the Tourism Ministry itself instead of the district administration.It may be noted that after the funds were allocated, the district administration had made several plans for taking up work in the sector here.These include restoration of monuments, providing basic facilities at monuments such as Gol Gumbaz and Ibrahim Roza, developing connecting roads, providing parking facility and installation of boards at various public places mentioning the details of the monuments and places to visit.

Sources said that all the plans now have been scrapped by the State government which has decided to hire a private agency to prepare a detailed project report for implementing the scheme for utilisation of the funds.“We are no longer directly associated with the project. We can now offer some suggestions to the agency on improving the tourism sector in the district.However, the final decision would be taken by the agency which will submit the report to the State government,” the sources said.Though no specific reason was given for the change in plan, it was said that since the Archaeological Survey of India-protected monuments needed special permission, it was difficult for the district administration to obtain that permission directly.“If the project is implemented directly by the Tourism Ministry, it would be easy to get permission from the ASI and the project could be expedited,” the sources added.With the entire project going to be prepared afresh, there is bound to be delays in improving facilities for tourism here.

- http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-karnataka/govt-now-decides-to-hire-private-agency-for-tourism-project-report/article19760452.ece, Sep 27, 2017

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Wake the Lake: How This Campaign Helped Revive 16 Lakes in Bengaluru

The lakes in the city are in a state of deterioration, thanks to encroachment and construction activity for urban infrastructure expansion. Urbanisation has had severe adverse effects on Bengaluru’s lakes, so much so that only 17 lakes now exist in the heart of the city as opposed to 51 in 1985. Even these are in a state of deterioration, thanks to encroachment and construction activity for urban infrastructure expansion. According to a study, the water bodies of the city have reduced from 3.40 per cent in 1973 to just about 1.47 per cent in 2005. There’s been reduced precipitation, as the lake spaces have turned into constructed areas. Even sanctuaries for birds have been lost, among other things.

At a time like this, a group called United Way Bengaluru has pledged to revive the city’s water bodies and turn them into community-nurtured spaces. Through their campaign called Wake The Lake, which started in 2009, they want to revive the city’s dying lakes and bring together the civic bodies, corporates and citizens to reclaim the local lakes and improve the quality of water.

Their goal is to restore the water quality of the city’s lakes by removing garbage and effluents from them and making them pollution-free. Also, by creating a microclimate in and around the lakes, they will revive the eco-system. They have currently managed to revive 16 lakes in the city, through both direct and indirect intervention. These 16 lakes include: Munnekolalu, Kaikondranahalli, Saulkere, Kaudenahalli, Devsandra, Kundalahalli, Uttarahalli, Chinnapanahalli, Ulsoor, Rachenahalli, Seegehalli, Mahadevapura, Dasarahalli, Dodda Kudulu, Yellahanka and Sheelavanta. Talking about how they were able to do this, Manish Michael, CEO, UWB, told The Better India, “We spread awareness on preservation of lakes, mobilised local community members and corporates in the neighbourhood to contribute CSR funds to undertake activities. These included enhancement of biodiversity, setting up Sewage Treatment Plants (STP) and awareness activities. We also engaged subject matter specialists to advise us on every step.”

They’ve managed to put in their efforts through volunteers, government agencies and corporate partners. Every lake that they revive is assessed on parameters that measure the lake’s ‘community-friendly’ index. They do this using a Lake Scoresheet. This helps them evaluate how successful their initiative has been. Talking about their next step, he said, “Now that we have mastered our model, we would like to scale up the Wake The Lake campaign in the semi-urban areas.”

- https://www.thebetterindia.com/116976/bengaluru-lakes-revive-united-way-bengaluru/, Sep 28, 2017

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Delhi’s Coronation Park Highlights How Urban Governance Ignores Both History and the Public

The American Historical Association cited the park as a good example of preserving historical artefacts. They probably wouldn’t have said that if they’d been there. On August 28, 2017, the American Historical Association (AHA) issued a statement in the wake of violent protests by white supremacists at Charlottesville who opposed the city’s plan to take down the statue of Robert E. Lee, the Confederacy’s most important general. Emphasising the importance of history to public culture, the statement argues that the proposed removal of Confederate statues would “neither…change history, nor erase it” but was a reconsideration of which memorials, and which histories embodied by them, were worthy of civic honour.The AHA proposed that the Confederate statues needed to be preserved as historical artefacts. Ideally, they should be moved to other spaces, for example museums, accompanied by records of their original location and significance. Two examples from other parts of the world are cited approvingly by the AHA: Memento Park in Budapest, Hungary, which houses old communist statues and plaques, and Coronation Park in north Delhi.

State of George V under a canopy at India Gate, circa 1952. The statue was removed in 1960 and eventually relocated to what is now Coronation Park. Credit: Inger Schulstad/Trondheim Municipal Archives/Flickr CC-BY-2.0 Coronation Park was conceived in 2011 as a public park that would foster a new relationship between imperial artefacts and public space. The site already contained an in situ obelisk marking George V’s Indian coronation at the site in 1911 and had been the location where a number of other statues of imperial dignitaries, removed from their original positions in other parts of the city, were dumped soon after independence.The vision of the park’s design, created by landscape architect Mohammed Shaheer, is striking in its ability to invoke the original context of the statues while leaving the visitor in no doubt that the park is a different, new space. For instance, the structures of red and white stone and almost stately pathways that are lined with tall street lamps are fleetingly reminiscent of Lutyen’s Delhi.

These stylistic touches conjure up, but do not recreate, a sense of imperial grandeur that itself drew on design elements of the city’s Mughal and Sultanate past. At the same time, the park contains clear iterations of its own time and diversions from the statues’ pasts. In contrast to the pedestrian-unfriendly avenues of Lutyens’ Delhi, small follies in red sandstone offer shelter to the park goer. The steps of an elegant sunken amphitheatre mark the amenable nature of the space. The stepped plinths below the statues, each contained within a small enclosure, offer seats and encourage a physical and visual intimacy to the visitor that is the antithesis of the statues’ original embodiment of the physically remote and culturally aloof nature of imperial power. Perhaps nothing speaks to the very different political context in which Coronation Park was planned as much as an enormous flag pole (currently sans flag) intentionally and significantly taller than any of the statues, in front of the amphitheatre.

In 2011, A.G.K. Menon, the head of the Delhi chapter of INTACH, emphasised that the flag was meant to dominate the space as a clear marker of the Indian nature of the park. Our visit to Coronation Park took place on a warm September evening. Despite its youth (it was completed only two years ago), the park has fallen into early decrepitude. The monuments are covered with graffiti and the gardens are untended. The lamps that dot the park do not light up in the evening and vegetation is undermining the stone walkways and enclosures.The Interpretation Centre, intended to explain the history of the park and its statues, was never completed and the buildings designed to house it stand empty. It is clear that none of the members of the various historical associations who signed the American statement have visited the park.However, Coronation Park bristles with activities – yoga, badminton, running, the ubiquitous pastime of selfie-taking, romance and play. It is now a local, north Delhi park, clearly popular and valued, its ambience a far cry from rather somber descriptions usually accorded to it by academics and planners. For the crowds that throng the park in the evening, the statues provide visual backdrops and sheltered spaces for rest and socialising.Beyond the provision of props and shelter, the statues are regarded with benign indifference. When asked about the statues, a group of boys emphatically told us they were of Indians, not British.

Another park-goer told us that the park in its entirety was created was created by the British. It is noteworthy that nothing in the park contests these readings. Whether by accident of design, the plaques below the plinths are blank and no museum tells the story of the statues’ changed fortunes. Only George V, whose name is carved into the original plinth on which the statue stood at India Gate, is identified. The AHA’s laudatory comments about Delhi’s Coronation Park imply the statues have been preserved as a corrective, but not iconoclastic, rebuttal to a repressive imperial past.

We would argue that the fate of the imperial statuary is something of a footnote in a set of very different urban politics. The current condition of the park is testimony to more significant tensions between, on the one hand, urban development and heritage protection and, on the other, the city and its publics. The park was designed to form the northern-most point of a heritage corridor that would end at the Qutab Minar in the south. This corridor was central to a proposal to make Delhi a UNESCO World Heritage city, a proposal that was unilaterally withdrawn by the government of India in 2015 without consultation with either the Delhi government, who initiated the proposal, or the INTACH, who prepared it. The reason for the bid’s abrupt withdrawal is not mysterious. World Heritage City status would have provided substantial armoury for the city’s vast and diverse physical heritage and, in doing so, would have blighted urban infrastructural development of the kind the government currently favours for the capital. On the question of the city’s publics, it is significant that the park is not deemed worthy of continued support on its own merits; as a large, enclosed, landscaped space of leisure in a part of the city that enjoys few such amenities. That none of the state and non-state agencies involved in the conception and partial completion of the park as a heritage space has supported the park as a local, north Delhi resource attests to the alienation of these agencies from the city’s public. This distance is not new.

The city of New Delhi was built amidst the collapse of the imperial state’s credibility and in proximity to the epicentre of the most significant rebellion the British Empire ever faced. The imperial city’s architecture – of which the statues at Coronation Park formed a part – is a physical memorial to a government regime that regarded the Indian public with indifference, suspicion and antagonism. The dilapidated state of Coronation Park commemorates two realities of contemporary urban governance. Firstly, the abandonment of the park as it was originally conceived marks the ascendancy of rapid infrastructural transformation over heritage conservation in the city. Secondly, and arguably more significantly, the park’s trajectory of decline exhibits the indifference of the government to the maintenance of local infrastructure and, in particular, places of public leisure. Without some properly resourced maintenance, it is not clear how long the park will remain attractive and amenable to visitors. The story of the park is the story of a bureaucratic regime that refuses to allow the city’s past to offer cautionary wisdom to its present and a city public that is not deemed worthy of recreational spaces.

- https://thewire.in/181925/coronation-park-confederate-statues/, Sep 28, 2017

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Environment ministry notifies new wetland rules

In a major decision, the union environment ministry notified the new Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules 2017 on Tuesday which prohibit a range of activities in wetlands like setting up and expansion of industries, waste dumping and discharge of effluents.Environmental experts, however, are unhappy as they felt the new wetland rules seriously weakens the existing regulations.The new rules will replace the 2010 version of the rules. The draft of the Wetland Rules was first presented by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) in April 2016. But they were severely criticized by conservationists who had alleged that the draft rules don’t mention anything about a national regulator and don’t list specific activities prohibited in these ecologically sensitive areas.MoEFCC has addressed some of these concerns in the final rules that were notified on Tuesday.Wetlands can be defined as lands transitional between terrestrial and aquatic eco-systems where the water table is usually at or near the surface or the land is covered by shallow water.

They support rich biodiversity and provide wide range of ecosystem services such as water storage, water purification, flood mitigation, erosion control, aquifer recharge and others.But they are threatened by reclamation and degradation due to activities like drainage and landfill, pollution, hydrological alteration (water withdrawal and changes in inflow and outflow), over-exploitation resulting in loss of biodiversity and disruption in ecosystem services provided by them.There are at least 115 wetlands that are officially identified by the central government and of those 26 are identified as wetlands of international importance under Ramsar Convention which is an international intergovernmental treaty for conservation of wetlands. India is a party to the treaty.

The new rules stipulate setting up of a State Wetlands Authority in each State and union territories that will be headed by the State’s environment minister and include a range of government officials. They will also include one expert each in the fields of wetland ecology, hydrology, fisheries, landscape planning and socioeconomics to be nominated by the state government.These authorities will need to develop a comprehensive list of activities to be regulated and permitted within the notified wetlands and their zone of influence, recommend additional prohibited activities for specific wetlands, define strategies for conservation and wise use of wetlands, and undertake measures for enhancing awareness within stakeholders and local communities on values and functions of wetlands. Wise use is defined as the principle of sustainable uses that is compatible with conservation.The State authorities will also need to prepare a list of all wetlands of the State or union territory within three months, a list of wetlands to be notified within six months, a comprehensive digital inventory of all wetlands within one year which will be updated every ten years.

The rules prohibit activities like conversion of wetland for non-wetland uses including encroachment of any kind, setting up of any industry and expansion of existing industries, manufacture or handling or storage or disposal of hazardous substances and construction and demolition waste, solid waste dumping, discharge of untreated wastes and effluents from industries, cities, towns, villages and other human settlements.Environmental experts, however, are not happy. They pointed out that provisions like “central government may consider proposals from the state government or union territory administration for omitting any of the (prohibited) activities on the recommendation of the authority” in the new rules can be misused. They also stated that as per the 2010 version of the rules, there was a Central Wetlands Regulatory Authority (CWRA) which will now be replaced by a national committee. Another major objection is about the process of appeal against the decisions of wetland authorities. According to the 2010 rules, anyone aggrieved with the CWRA’s decisions could have filed an appeal with the National Green Tribunal, but the new 2017 rules are silent on the appeal process.“The new Wetland Rules have laudable objectives.

However, it falls short in details. At the outset, the identification process by the State Wetland Authority does not distinguish between existing wetlands and especially those past wetlands which have been encroached and can be proved through legal documents. It also does not take into account the Jagpal Singh judgment of Justice Katju for restoration of encroached wetlands throughout the country,” said Sanjay Upadhyay, an environmental advocate in the Supreme Court.He stated that the other big gap is the subjective definition of “wise use” which is to be determined by the state wetland authority.“While the subject head talks about restrictions and the activities listed are to be prohibited, the proviso gives ample space for undoing everything that ought to be prohibited. A comprehensive arrangement of this nature at the whims and discretion of the state government can be best mentioned as a lip service to wetland conservation in India. Where are the appeal provisions? Where is the citizen’s role?” Upadhyay questioned.

But the senior MoEFCC officials said the new rules will strengthen the protection and conservation efforts for wetlands.“Under the new rules, the powers have been given to the State governments so that protection and conservation work can be done at the local level. Central government has mainly retained powers regarding monitoring,” said MoEFCC’s additional secretary Amita Prasad.To oversee the work carried out by States, the rules stipulates for setting up of National Wetlands Committee, which will be headed by the MoEFCC Secretary, to monitor implementation of these rules. The Committee will also advise the Central Government on appropriate policies and action programmes for conservation and wise use of wetlands, recommend designation of wetlands of international importance under Ramsar Convention, advise on collaboration with international agencies on issues related to wetlands etc.

- http://www.livemint.com/Politics/y6Tr3tkrr3q28AmGKaBFII/Environment-ministry-notifies-new-wetland-rules.html, Sep 28, 2017

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Adopt a monument to conserve history

In an attempt to increase public private partnership in conservation and maintenance of heritage sites, the tourism ministry on Wednesday launched the 'Adopt a Heritage' scheme, inviting private and public sector companies to become 'Monument Mitras'. The 'friends of monuments' will adopt heritage sites, develop basic and advanced amenities at monuments and look after their operation and maintenance. For their services, Monument Mitras will be "given visibility" on the monument premises as well as on the tourism ministry's Incredible India website. The 'Adopt a Heritage' scheme is a repackaged version of the existing National Culture Fund (NCF) — in operation since 1996 — under which private firms can offer to preserve and protect tangible and intangible heritage in India and choose to develop amenities, undertake research or offer funds for building or maintaining a heritage project.

Among those recently undertaken for conservation as NCF projects was Humayun's Tomb in Delhi, which was completed by the Aga Khan Trust and Oberoi Group of Hotels. In the present form, the 'Adopt a Heritage' project focuses on 93 ASI-ticketed monuments to begin with. It will be expanded to include other natural and cultural sites across India. The ministry has divided heritage sites into various categories and 'Monument Mitras' will be given the choice of adopting sites of varied visibility and footfalls as a package. The key focus area, tourism secretary Rashmi Verma said on Wednesday, will be on basic amenities like cleanliness, public conveniences, drinking water facilities, signages and ease of access. Among advanced amenities they may choose to offer include cafes, surveillance, tourist facilitation centres, etc.

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/adopt-a-monument-to-conserve-history/articleshow/60862982.cms, Sep 28, 2017

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Warangal city gets Best Heritage City Award

Warangal City was awarded the ‘Best Heritage City Award’ by the Union Ministry of Tourism marking World Tourism Day. The city has bagged the award for the third time during the last five years.At a programme in New Delhi on Wednesday, Warangal Mayor N Narender received the award from President of India, Ram Nath Kovind.Similarly, Warangal Urban District Collector Amrapali Kata and GWMC Commissioner Shruti Ohja received the Swachhata Award in the category of civic management of tourism destination from Union Minister of State (independent charge) KJ Alphons. It might be recalled that Warangal received the Best Heritage City Award for the years 2011-12 and 2013-14 and now for the year 2015-16. This time, Warangal and Chanderi in Madhya Pradesh stood as joint winners of the award. Expressing his delight over receiving the award, Mayor Narender said “It is a moment of pride to receive the award from the President of India’.

The city corporation would make additional efforts towards developing Warangal as a world class city, he added. “The award has increased our responsibility and placed Warangal on the national map in terms of tourist destination. We would strive to carry on the work we have been doing towards upholding rich cultural and historic heritage of Warangal,” he added. The development of the city was possible with the active support of Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao who ensured a budgetary allocation of Rs 300 every year for development of Warangal. Minister for IT and Municipal Administration K Taraka Rama Rao was offering continuous guidance in the city development, he added.

- http://www.thehansindia.com/posts/index/Warangal-Tab/2017-09-28/Warangal-city-gets-Best-Heritage-City-Award/329559, Sep 28, 2017

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From deluge misery to municipal dump yard

The River Musi continues to remain as enigmatic as ever before, having made a mark of its own in historical records for being "now dry" and "now in floods". It has been the sorrow and pride of Hyderabad and its predecessor city of Golconda for over five centuries of recorded history. Musi was the lifeline of Hyderabad and Golconda for centuries before it turned into a municipal gutter. As Hyderabadis remember the Great Deluge of September 28, 1908, a look into the flood and drought history of the Musi River over the last 500 years reveals that the river had been a natural enigma for foreign travellers, historians and chroniclers, who visited Golconda kingdom and Hyderabad during the Qutub Shahi regime.

The Musi is perhaps the only river in India that has been associated with a legendary royal love affair that had pro mpted the ruler to build a bridge to protect his heir apparent from drowning when the river is flooded. It is also perhaps the only river whose history can be tracked for only 500 years though the water body has been in existence since time immemorial. The river was known as `Nerva' during the Qutub Shahi regime if travel accounts by foreign historians are any indication. Later, it came to be known as Musi (named after Judeo-Christian Muslim prophet Moses) while its tributary is named Esi (after Jesus Christ). Sadly, no documented history of the river during the period of the Kakatiyas, prior to the Qutub Shahis exist.

The first recorded history of flooding of Musi dates back to 1631 CE during the reign of Abdullah Qutub Shah VII. The preceding year witnessed seve re famine in the Deccan.

Syed Ali Asgar Bilgrami, who served as the officiating director of Hyderabad state archaeology department during mid-1920s, wrote in his Landmarks of the Deccan that in 1631CE "excessive rainfall flooded the city, inasmuch as the water flowed right over the Old Bridge (Puranapul), which led to the demolition of many lofty buildings of the city." The Puranapul was built 14 years before the foundation of Hyderabad was laid in 1591 CE, during the reign of Ibrahim Qutb Shah IV, as Bilgrami pointed out, "chiefly with a view to affording easy egress and to avoiding the risk of life which attended the nocturnal visits of Prince Muhammad Quli to Bhagmati, a courtesan, who resided in the village of Chichlam, near Shah Ali Banda.

" French traveller Jean de Thevenot (1633-1667 CE) referred to the calmness and fury of the Musi in these words: "The River of Nerva runs under the bridge, which then seemed to be but a brook, though in time of the rains, it be as broad as the Seine before the Louvre at Paris.

" He refers to a devastating flood in Hyderabad during his visit "It began to rain and thunder. Thunder lasted not four days. Rain poured down with great storms of wind till midnight. The river overflowed so prodigiously that there was no passing over bridges, not with the help of elephants.

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/hyderabad/from-deluge-misery-to-municipal-dump-yard/articleshow/60865287.cms, Sep 28, 2017

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In search of the tradition of rock-cut cave temples in Tamil Nadu

The tradition of rock-cut temple architecture in India started during the time of emperor Asoka (300 BC) in and around ancient Magada and spread widely to the western part of the country later. But, it took a long time to arrive in south India. According to scholar S Rajavelu even though the cultural and trade contacts between north and the south occurred in the pre-Christian era, it did not affect the native religious beliefs of Tamils and the new religions such as Buddhism, Jainism and Brahmanism and their rituals did not intrude the faith of the people of Tamils till 4th or 5th century AD. "The political changes in the Tamil country during the middle of the 4th Century AD witnessed a new form of faith in the religious order resulting in the introduction of a new type of permanent shelter that is rock-cut mandapa with cellas (inner chamber) for gods of Brahmanical faith in the Tamil country," said Rajavelu, dean and professor, department of under-water archaeology, Tamil University, Thanjavur.

Built by Pallava king Mahendravarman-I (AD 600-630), the Mandagapattu rock-cut cave temple in Villupuram district is considered the oldest of this kind in Tamil Nadu. But there are different versions on this. "Based on the inscription, scholars interpreted that Mahendravarman introduced a new type of temple architecture by avoiding materials such as bricks, timbers, metal and mortar for the gods Brahma, Isvara and vishnu. "This shows that the temples in Tamil Nadu prior to Pallava period were mostly built of materials such as bricks, mortar, metal and timbers. However, the inscription does not indicate that Mahendravarman introduced a new type of temple architecture for the first time i.e., rock-cut architecture in Tamil country," said Rajavelu, who was speaking on "South Indian Temple Architecture" at a two-day seminar held recently in Hosur.

Rajavelu said there were a few rock-cut temples scooped out in the Pandya region prior to Mahendravarman's period, but those were just rock-cut chambers without pillars and facade (porch) in front. "But these are the models of rock-cut tradition in Tamil Nadu," he said "The upper rock-cut type temple at Tirumayam is a fine example of the early simple form of the rock-cut temple dated to middle of 5th century AD. The rock-cut temple at Kurattiyarai in Kanyakumari district is a similar form of rock cut chamber and can be assigned to the same period. One can see the next stage of development at the rock-cut temple in Aralipatti in Tirupattur."

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chennai/in-search-of-the-tradition-of-rock-cut-cave-temples-in-tamil-nadu/articleshow/60862773.cms, Sep 28, 2017

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Heritage tag to Gandikota fort soon

Marketing Minister C Adinarayana Reddy has said that Gandikota fort is going to secure UNESCO heritage status within one month. The Minister participated in the World Tourism Day celebrations here on Wednesday. Addressing a gathering, Adinarayana Reddy stated that fort is getting heritage status with the initiative of Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu. Facelift will be given to tourism spots like Siddavatam fort, Vontimitta temple, Jain temple etc., he said and gave a call for the people to take collective responsibility for the development of the district. The Minister added that people have quit faction culture and concentrating on the development.Reddy said that unemployed in the district will get jobs as solar power and wind power units are coming in a big way. The Minister directed the Tourism department to publish booklets with comprehensive information about the tourist spots, and ancient temples in the district.

He advised officials to arrange a package tour in the interest of the tourists, who are coming from far off places. Adinarayana hinted at allocation of funds from the District Reserve Fund (DRF) for the development of tourism spots in the district. He instructed the officials to collect fund from the industries under the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) for developing tourism in the district. He said that the government had sanctioned Rs 3 crore for the construction of 8 km road from Agasteswara Kona to Gandikota.

He further stated that officials concerned should supply water from Gandikota reservoir to Mailavaram, Sarvaraya Sagar and Brahamam Sagar reservoirs for agriculture operations in the Kharif season. On the occasion, the Minister has distributed prizes and certificates to the winners of various competitions. Tourism Regional Director G Gopal, DRDA PD Ramachandra Reddy and other officials were present.

- http://www.thehansindia.com/posts/index/Andhra-Pradesh/2017-09-28/Heritage-tag-to-Gandikota-fort-soon/329553, Sep 28, 2017

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Heritage walk marks world tourism day

A heritage walk organised as part of World Tourism Day celebrations in the city on Wednesday threw the spotlight on places of tourism interest near the Meenakshi Sundareswarar temple.

Madurai district collector K Veera Raghava Rao flagged off the heritage walk near the east tower of the temple. Participants including students from various colleges, entrepreneurs, tourist guides, officials from the archaeology department and representatives of NGOs walked around the temple visiting the heritage spots. The sites included Nagarathar mandapam, vitta vaasal - the gateway in front of the Amman Sannidhi, a reminiscent of a Pandya fort, temple car, Vilakuthoon - a historic metal lamp post, among other things. The importance of each place was explained to the participants and the heritage walk concluded at the Thirumalai Naicker mahal.

Speaking at the launch of the walk, the collector said that World Tourism Day was introduced by United Nations in 1970 to promote tourism. In all, 150 members of the world tourism organisation took measures each year to promote heritage and culture of various places on the day. This year's theme is sustainable tourism - a tool for development.

Tourism has a lot of scope for enhancing the revenue of the nation and many initiatives are being carried out to attract tourists. What was important was to maintain every place clean and tidy as the first move to make it tourist-friendly, he said. On reaching the Thirumalai Naicker mahal, the walkers took a pledge to keep the city neat and clean. Madurai corporation commissioner Aneesh Sekhar, trainee collector Ranjith, district tourism officer S M Sribalamurugan among others were also present.

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/madurai/heritage-walk-marks-world-tourism-day/articleshow/60862639.cms, Sep 28, 2017

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Culture ministry to devote a week every month to cleanliness

The culture ministry will devote one week every month to the cleaning of monuments as part of the government’s ‘Swachhata Hi Seva’ campaign, Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma said on Thursday. The minister, who participated in a cleanliness drive at Humayun’s Tomb here, said his ministry was committed to cleaning all monuments under the ministry. To begin with, 100 monuments listed by the government as Adarsh Smaraks, controlled by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), would be spruced up, he said. Sharma, along with officers and others from the Ministry of Culture and the ASI, cleaned the premises of the monument, picking up garbage. “To fulfil the grand vision of the prime minister, the ministry will devote one week every month to cleaning these monuments. I call upon the people to make India garbage free and corruption free,” Sharma said.

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/madurai/heritage-walk-marks-world-tourism-day/articleshow/60862639.cms, Sep 28, 2017

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PM reviews Hriday schemes with states

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday held a video conferencing session with the chief secretaries of states to take stock of the progress of central government's schemes. Bihar chief secretary Anjani Kumar Singh told TOI the PM was apprised about the development of four historic-religious sites at Gaya, including Vishnupad Temple and Vaitarni Sarovar under the Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojna (Hriday). Besides, the PM was also briefed about the progress in the central government's schemes for the welfare of persons with disabilities, including development of shelter houses for them.

"We will complete the schemes before their deadlines," Singh said and added the PM appeared satisfied with the progress in the schemes. He said the chief secretaries of other states also briefed the PM about the schemes in their states. The PM launched the Hriday scheme on January 21 last year. It is aimed at bringing together urban planning, economic growth and heritage conservation to preserve the heritage character of heritage cities.

The scheme covers, besides Gaya, Amritsar, Ajmer, Amravati, Badami, Dwarka, Kanchipuram, Mathura, Puri, Varanasi, Velankanni and Warangal. Sources said deliberations were also made on the status of work on the Jagadishpur-Haldia gas pipeline, which passes through Bihar. Senior officials said the pipeline has been laid till Silao in Nalanda district. It was in 2007 that the Gas Authority of India Limited planned to lay five pipelines to take CNG across the country. While the work on four pipelines has been completed, that on the Jagadishpur-Haldia line remains pending even though the state government claims that the work is in final stages.

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/patna/pm-reviews-hriday-schemes-with-states/articleshow/60860660.cms, Sep 28, 2017

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Jalasree to refurbish depleted water bodies

The Jalasree project, a joint initiative of the district panchayat and the District Planning Committee, launched by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Thursday, is expected to refurbish depleted water sources in the district, benefiting the public and farmers alike. Activities to the tune of C200 crore will be undertaken under Jalasree, which aims at achieving ‘water literacy’ in the district in three years. The general public is united in the efforts to revive and protect rivers. It sends across an encouraging message, the Chief Minister said. He urged the public to dig more wells and protect existing ones. This is imperative even though potable water is supplied through pipelines, he said. The project, while ensuring ready water availability for the general populace, is also seen as a big shot in the arm for farmers in the district. Thiruvananthapuram is considered an ideal agricultural district, especially for the farming of coconut and banana.Though relatively water-rich in comparison to many other districts, recent events predict a bleak future.

Due to depleted water levels in the Peppara Dam, the Kerala Water Authority had been forced, for the first time, to impose water cuts in summer in Thiruvananthapuram. It had to source water from the Neyyar to avert a crisis. Though a joint project of the district panchayat and the District Planning Committee, the project falls under the larger umbrella of the Haritha Keralam Mission of the state government. Pinarayi reiterated the government’s commitment to ensuring water bodies are protected at all cost. The government is in the process of amending laws to ensure the penalty is severe for polluting water sources like rivers, fields, ponds and wells. The public should also be vigilant against attempts to pollute water bodies, he said.The September 20 Cabinet meeting had okayed a draft bill for modifying the Kerala Irrigation and Water Conservation Act, 2003, so offenders would face up to three years of imprisonment or a fine of C2 lakh or both.

- http://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/thiruvananthapuram/2017/sep/29/jalasree-to-refurbish-depleted-water-bodies-1664409.html, Sep 29, 2017

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Nanakramguda lake reels under threat of destruction

Bhagirathamma cheruvu or Nanakramguda lake, which is one of the best preserved water bodies in Hyderabad, is under threat of complete destruction, like many other lakes in the city. The lake is one of the handful of water bodies in Hyderabad which still harbours aquatic life and where fishing is possible. Many species of birds make a stop-over at this lake, which is located a little away from mega residential projects in a picturesque location and is protected one one side by a small hillock. A major threat the lake faces is a damaged sewage line which has been leaking sewage water for the past few months into the lake.

Ironically, while on one side of the lake, treated water flows into it from Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) constructed by HMWS&SB, on another side the damaged sewage line is polluting the lake day and night. The STP is not run for 24 hours like it is expected to. Rather, as per sources, it is run for just 12-14 hours a day or a maximum of 16 hours, rendering the purpose of having a STP futile. The damage to sewage line which has been polluting Nanakramguda lake was allegedly caused during the construction of a road that leads from Khajaguda towards Ramanaidu Studio and the STP, which are located adjacent to the lake. Sewage is also being let into the lake from a settlement adjacent to the lake.

Huge herds of pigs are also being reared on the lake’s bank. Attempts made to encroach upon lake land.Another major issue that threatens the lake’s existence is that Lake View Colony Plot Owners Association, a private body, is in a tussle with state government and have been erecting boards claiming part of the land to be theirs. Recently Rangareddy collector erected a board making it clear that the land belongs to state government. Madhulika Choudhary, member of an environmental NGO called Dhruvansh, who brought the issue of the lake getting polluted recently to the attention of Serilingampally MLA, A Gandhi, said, “Members of the association claiming a part of the lake land as theirs had a fight with state government officials when they had visited the lake recently. It is very worrisome. Bhagirathamma cheruvu is one of the handful of lakes in Hyderabad which is still in good condition and state government should ensure that the situation is improved by providing required protection and conservation measures immediately.”

- http://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/hyderabad/2017/sep/29/nanakramguda-lake-reels-under-threat-of-destruction-1664371.html, Sep 29, 2017

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Chowmahalla wins National Tourism Award

The city's magnificent Chowmahalla Palace has added another feather to its cap, bagging the National Tourism Award for being the best maintained monument. The award was among other honours presented by the Government of India, on the occasion of World Tourism Day observed on September 27.Speaking about the recognition, G Kishan Rao, director of the palace said: "It is a matter of great pride. Earlier in 2012, Chowmahalla received the award of merit from UNESCO." Pointing out how the palace is among the most sought-after tourist destinations in the city, Rao said the heritage structure is equipped with all the necessary facilities for visitors, including those who are differently-abled.

On an average 800 to 1,000 tourists visit the 250-year-old Chowmahalla Palace in Khilwat every day . Its construction, ordered during the reign of the third Nizam, was completed during the time of his successor. Since, it was used primarily to hold official functions. Over time, the ex panse of the heritage property, once spread over 45 acres complete with 16 palaces, shrunk to a meagre 12 acres. Yet, the impressive collection of artefacts, including crockery, garments, cars and rare photographs from the Nizam's era - housed within, are in impeccable condition.

"After the death of seventh Nizam of Hyderabad, the palace was in a deplorable state. It was in 2001 when Princess Esra (first wife of Mukarram Jah) took it upon herself to restore it that things changed for the better. In 2006, we opened the place up for public. Today , the palace is also a central place for mega cultural events in the city," said Rao, sharing how the paraphernalia on display also comprise items brought in from the King Kothi Palace, where they were in the cellar.

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/hyderabad/chowmahalla-wins-natl-tourism-award/articleshow/60878949.cms, Sep 29, 2017

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