Heritage feeling the pinch of climate change?

On World Heritage Day, experts and activists speak to CE about how haphazard urbanisation and climate change are affecting heritage structures in Hyderabad  

Published: 19th April 2022 05:41 AM  |   Last Updated: 19th April 2022 05:41 AM   |  A+A-

The tombs at the Qutb Shahi Heritage Park with Golconda Fort in the background

Express News Service

HYDERABAD:  It is no secret that haphazard urbanisation is one of the major factors causing climate change which has become a major threat not only to the ecology, but also to heritage (both natural and cultural). This World Heritage Day, CE spoke to heritage activists and conservationists about how climate change is impacting heritage structures in Hyderabad.

According to Dr Shiva Ji, assistant professor in the Department of Design and Department of Climate Change at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Hyderabad, the key problem is disorganised and unthoughtful urbanisation. “Humans have always been in sync with nature. Our culture and heritage symbolise our synchronicity with nature, which we have lost in the last three decades. We have chosen the path of rapid, disorganised urbanisation which is causing climate change,” said Shiva, who is studying the impact of climate change on heritage structures in the city. 

In Hyderabad particularly, the changing climatic conditions on heritage is different because the composition of the structures are different. “We have observed chemicals such as benzine in the lime mortar edifice of heritage structures here, which can cause flaking. Whereas in rock structures such as the Golconda Fort, the problem is different. Here, we have seen a difference in particulate matter,” said the professor.

This is not just about the air, even the sounds and geo-vibrations caused due to vehicle motion can also impact heritage buildings. “The Musi, which is our heritage river, is toxic and shows how much we do not care about our heritage,” Shiva added.

All the heritage structures in Hyderabad were built to be in sync with nature. “There are baghs in close proximity to every heritage structure in the city. The Qutb Shahi Heritage Complex is a garden that perfectly holds a necropolis. We have rebuilt the natural heritage by planting over 10,000 trees and restoring wells. These wells, during the last monsoon, have collected over 10 million litres of water which has saved us from relying on external water sources,” said Ratish Nanda, a conservation architect and projects director of Aga Khan Trust for Culture, India, that is restoring the Qutb Shahi Heritage Complex. 

“The Qutb Shahis knew that the State is dry and hence, were the first to build these water sources. These sources not only fulfilled the construction needs, but were also used to maintain the gardens, which in turn helped restore the water table,” Ratish added.

In conclusion, Anuradha Reddy, convenor of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), Hyderabad chapter, said that all human activities contribute to climate change, either adversely or in a good way. “It is also impacting our culture which influences lifestyle, and in the end, it leads to choices that can have an impact,” she said.


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