Golden Temple could be world heritage site

The following are excerpts from an interview in which he spoke about the Golden Temple being declared a world heritage site and what needs to be done for conservation in Punjab:

Q: What brought you to the region'
Ans: This year, the Krishna temple at Kishankot in Gurdaspur district won the Award of Distinction, UNESCO Asia Pacific Heritage Award, for culture heritage conservation. We encourage the community to celebrate on the receipt of the award and I came to be a part of the celebration and officially present the plaque and to congratulate the people who have been working on the project. These awards were established by UNESCO to coincide with the millennium with the idea that as the world is rushing towards modernisation, we should do what we can to conserve the memory of the past and the skills and techniques that created our heritage, particularly our built heritage. Very often there is this idea that conservation work is only being done well by a few professionals in Europe and maybe in Australia and these professionals are always brought in to advise, whereas in fact when you look at the projects you see that very excellent work is being carried on locally all over Asia and we want to call attention to that.

Q: You have visited other places also. What have you found interesting'
Ans: One of the members of the close circle of advisers on UNESCO's future plans for the past five years or so is Gurmeet Rai who took me to the Golden Temple. We have been talking to the local people and also to the Chief Minister on whether or not it would be appropriate to pursue the world heritage nomination for the Golden Temple. These nominations always emanate from the owners of the site and from them, through the national government, to the UNESCO. So our organisation does not pick the world heritage sites itself. The people we met seemed very positive in wanting to go ahead with this and certainly UNESCO would very much encourage this because UNESCO wants that representatives of all cultures should be on the world heritage list and the absence of the Sikh culture would make the list less complete, less good. We also talked to Chief Minister Amarinder Singh about it and he was also very positive as well, saying he would support the nomination. A working group needs to be formed and the dossier has to be prepared for presentation through the Indian Government to UNESCO. In case of the Golden Temple, it would not be a difficult thing to do because so much has been written on it and much documentation has been done. Everything should fall quickly in nomination of the Golden Temple as a world heritage site, which would be an honour for the site. UNESCO also makes available various technical and other resources for conservation.

Q: What other sites did you see in Punjab'
Ans: The Patiala fort seems to be quite a jewel in the heritage of Punjab, and also for all of India, because this fusion of architecture and crafts there from India, not just Sikh and Mughal. It is also quite a daunting project, because it is so large. We know that the best way to keep a building is to use it and we have to think of what we are going to do with it before we start conserving it. We are exploring the idea of using it as a centre for training conservation craftsmen and artists, painting conservation and restoration etc. This could cause a groundswell for conservation because there is always a shortage of conservation workers. The Nabha fort could be returned to the private sector with government controls on its use and conservation safeguards, so that it can be utilised. This is just an idea that is being explored.

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