The Vanishing Heritage

Amritsar is the only city in Punjab where the maximum number of redevelopment projects were undertaken. But at the same time little efforts were made to conserve the traditional character of the city. Mr Balwinder Singh, Head, Guru Ramdas School of Planning, Guru Nanak Dev University, while highlighting the need to conserve the heritage of this ancient city alleged that the land-use of this holy city was changed from time to time while carrying out the redevelopment of the area. An important feature he noted while evaluating these projects was that the traditional living styles were ignored while redeveloping t of these areas. Secondly, no comprehensive redevelopment plan was prepared as the work was carried on in an ad hoc manner having no link with the surrounding areas. Thirdly, conservation and protection of buildings as traditional areas was not given due emphasis.

Mr Balwinder Singh, who has been invited to present his paper on "Historic cities for the future" being organised by the National Heritage Board And ICO (Sweden), to be held on September 17, has given detailed information about the heritage of Amritsar. He has given a number of reasons for the vanishing historical landmark in his paper "Experience of an Indian city Amritsar: analysis, values and structures". He says the landuse of the walled city, "Katras" forts, gardens and traditional localities are being changed without bothering about our rich heritage.

Unmindful of our heritage, the concerned authorities had been causing lot of damage to the historical structures in the city. Giving details Mr Balwinder Singh said the city had seen many ups and downs in its physical growth. However, the period from 1765 to 1849 was considered as the "golden period" for Amritsar. During this period various developments which took place include Katras (markets) ‘palaces’, ‘Akharas’ (Centre of learning), ‘Bungas’ (Rest Houses), tanks, havelis (house with courtyard), city walls, gates, monuments and wells etc. However, there had been changes in the building use and physical form of the historical gardens and other structures. Many structures are decaying. In the historical garden "some ugly structures have also been added which do not conform to the aesthetics and environments of its setting. These structures are being used as residences of gardeners and sweepers.

The city of Amritsar has still some buildings and areas of heritage important which could be exploited to give a boost to tourism in the state. Not only the city but there are some pertinent sites within its radius of about 30 km which are in a neglected condition. Mr Balwinder Singh is of the view that the monuments of Amritsar require special attention otherwise it will be too late. He says Amritsar and its regions need to be studied in the light of heritage buildings and areas. For this integrated conservation plan of the region should be prepared.

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