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Rapid urbanisation v/s heritage preservation

19th ASEF Summer University (ASEFSU)

Dr Jyoti CHANDIRAMANI is the Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at Symbiosis International University in Pune, India. Together with her university team, she hosts the 19th ASEF Summer University on Sustainable Urbanisation in Heritage Cities. ASEF interviewed her to know her views on the project’s topic.

Q. Where do you see the difference in how ‘rapid urbanisation’ impacts on heritage in Europe and Asia?

At the current rate of urbanisation in Europe (72%) and Asia (46%), the coming years will witness the countryside of Europe urbanising at a dizzy pace, leading to a rural-urban continuum, while Asia will emerge as the mainstay of future urbanisation trends. The built heritage of Europe will be challenged by factors such as urbanisation, environment-related issues (climate change), and rising public debt.  Additional allocation of resources for heritage preservation will need to be balanced against resources required for pensioners, healthcare and education.  In the Asian context, with the impact of globalisation and internationalisation, intangible heritage will be diffused with a mix of unrecognisable outcomes. Thus there will be increasing pressure on both the continents to safeguard the identity and continuity of the richness of their heritage – both built and intangible. Deliberations with multiple perspectives will be needed to address the plethora of complex issues involved.

Q. When it comes to integrating heritage in the process of urbanisation, how do some cities seem to 'get it right’? What is your favourite example in Pune where heritage preservation and sustainable urbanisation are happening hand-in-hand?

Cities and nations are on different stages of social evolution. We must remember that the town – city is not our natural habitat. We are adapting and evolving based on the priorities of existence. While the high and middle income nations with a higher level of education and awareness have the capacity to incorporate the cultural and heritage aspects in their future urban plans, the challenges faced by low and lower middle income economies are more about jobs, livelihood, housing, mobility issues and catering to basic needs of the urban poor. Therefore, awareness, preservation and enhancing the culture and heritage of a city are not accorded high priority in urban planning in low and lower middle income nations.

Preserving the historical core of Pune city for the future generation has been gravely neglected.  “Tambats” (coppersmiths) are traditional craftsmen of Pune, making copperware for over 400 years, from the time of the Peshwa rulers. However, in recent years, demand for their ware has fallen, mainly due to changes in lifestyle. With the timely intervention of Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (Intach) and the Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives of Forbes Marshal and others, this fading craft has been revived with the infusion of seed capital, enabling production to reach a wider audience, making the craft of copperware sustainable in the long run.

Q. The 19th ASEF Summer University is bringing together 51 students from 51 ASEM countries at your university. What advice would you give to our young leaders, who might in future be in charge of urban planning?

The ASEF Summer University programme will provide you with an opportunity to undertake an experiential study of Pune, the 9th most populous city in India with its boundaries poised to expand. The case studies identified and selected under the context of sustainable  urbanisation of Pune – in the backdrop of its heritage -- will help you understand the transition from a traditional city with just 17 Peths (localities) established during the Maratha and Peshwa regimes in the 17th-19th century AD, to the present day sprawling urban centre and its challenges. It will provide the scholars an opportunity to put to test your ideas, views and skill sets, which will be experienced during the hackathon session.  The take away from the Pune experience will enrich the scholars to address equally complex issues that exist in most cities of South Asia. 

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