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CONSERVATION AND REHABILITATION OF BUILT HERITAGE 

                       Traditionally the kings and state machinery used to cater for the maintenance of the public works, Grand mosques and mausolea, and also monuments created by earlier patrons. In Sindh the Summas are known to have played active role in this regard. Arghuns, Turkhans and Talpurs not only looked after such buildings in Sindh, but provided regular financial assistance for the structures at home and also abroad , such as in Jerusalem, Iraq, Hijaz and Persia . Even after losing the country to Britishers, the Amirs of Sindh still continued to remit funds, through British Resident in Iraq, for such works.

2.                     It was a popular continuation of the tradition that Britishers felt compelled to undertake the restoration works on Shahjahani Mosque, Thatta and Mirza Essa Turkhan’s Tomb at Makli, in follow up of such earlier bid  by Mir Fateh Ali Khan Talpur. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) after its creation undertook restoration of selected historic monuments and developed a strategy of conservation, which is spelled out in the Conservation Manual (1922). After the independence the Department of Archaeology continued the policy of the ASI and classed the monuments under these categories: 

i)                                            Those monuments which from their present condition or historical or archaeological value ought to be maintained in permanent good repair.  

ii)                                          Those monuments which it is now only possible or desirable to save from further decay by such measures as the eradication of vegetation, the exclusion of water from the walls, and the like. 

iii)                                        Those monuments which, from their advanced stage of decay or comparative unimportance, it is impossible or unnecessary to preserve.  

3.                    This policy, as can be seen, is quite out dated and the world community has taken more progressive view of the issue. UNESCO has spelled out the will of the people of the world and framed these into conventions for the guidance of member countries. Conventions concerning the protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage required of each state party to ensure that active and effective  measures are taken for the protection, conservation and preservation of the cultural and natural heritage (Article 5). But the old practice, lack of funds and under developed human resources has created a situation, where the concern of the people regarding fast deterioration of their valuable physical heritage is mounting with passage of every day.  

4.         The indulgence of government with the maters of Culture started quite early in Sindh, compared with other provinces. The Sindhi Adabi Board did great service for Sindh’s Literature and History, during fifties and sixties; however in seventies a cell was established in the Education Department to look after the cultural issues. Same cell grew into Directorate of Culture and subsequently became Department of Culture. 

5.         There is no doubt that this department has contributed greatly towards promotion and projection of rich culture of Sindh. It continued to be a leader in Cultural promotional activities. The sphere of its activities was specific to intangible heritage, as there was no clear concept spelled out in any policy guidelines or articulated in its establishments, such as (1) Bhitshah Culture Centre Committee, (2) Mehran Arts Council, Hyderabad, (3) Sachal Academy, Khairpur. Sindh Provincial Museum Hyderabad too is an ethnological depository. However the popular sentiment did exist for the protection of the archaeological sites and historic monuments in the province. 

6.         The Antiquities Act 1975 (as amended in 1976), and federal Department of Archaeology and Museum (DOAM) was deemed sufficient to look after the built heritage of the country. Seeing the gradual deterioration of the monuments and sites a sense of resentment grew into demand for establishment of Provincial Department of Archaeology. It was not realized that the Department of Archaeology and Museums was handicapped by default, as the discourse of Archaeology is limited to the study of past, through the remains of structures, artifacts and settlements of the past, and surely not beyond that. The Antiquities Act was to ensure that the material evidence of the development of human culture is protected; thus the concept of conservation of built heritage did not take roots in this country.

7.         The efforts of the Department of Archaeology and Museum for restoration of the monuments were considered in gross violation of International conventions and have been widely criticized, the reason for it can be; one; that is there exists no other mechanism or guideline but the age old Conservation Manual of twenties and The Antiquities Act following these practices few projects were undertaken by the Provincial Departments in Sindh and unfortunately these were also considered not better than the previous practices. The renovation of Kot Diji Fort undertaken by District Government Khairpur was widely criticized, and the work on Ranikot by District Government Dadu was too highly deplored, the Advisory Committee for Sindh Cultural Heritage had to intervene and stop the work.

8.         The Conservation has come a long way, it encompasses not only the in-depth study of the monument, building materials, structural strength, soil, pigments, environmental effects, but also the historic process  and usage, evolution of cultural ambience and socio cultural aspects, coupled with the economic viability of the development works to be carried out. Then follows the (conservation) work, to arrest the decay by removing the causes, and finally the unavoidable physical intervention is designed, on basic principles such as reversibility, minimum interference, authenticity of material and design.

9.         There have been incidences where the heritage sites and monuments have been vandalized, encroached upon and undermined. Sometimes the newspapers reported, reflecting reaction of out-raged society, but official response was not simply there, as this business is not assigned to any one. Traditionally no provincial agency thought it their duty to intervene in matters, where archaeological sites were concerned, or monuments which were not maintained by them. The neglect of years is also telling upon the built heritage.

10.       As far as the federal government is concerned, there are only 129 monuments and sites protected under The Antiquities Act, 1975 in Sindh. On the other hand the number of important buildings/structures is much higher. The primary list prepared by the office of the Director General (Projects & Special Initiatives) has more than 800, and there is no one to look after the related issues of built heritage in this province. 

11.       The specialists and concerned citizens have been raising the voice for creation of a department to undertake preservation of the tangible heritage of the province. This important aspect was responded with the creation of the Office of the Director General specially to undertake conservation and rehabilitation of the historical buildings in 2006. 

12.       To take care of the built heritage. In this regard various schemes were prepared to carryout a detailed study and analysis of a few deteriorating monuments and conserve these by arresting the causes of decay.  

13.       It is in the month of January, that 08 office of DG(P&SI) was converted into the Department of Antiquities.

14.       The Department of Antiquities have proceeded with its development plan and got six schemes approved in current year ADP        ( Annexure I)

15.       The work on the initial survey and documentation of vast heritage of the province has started , that is being carried out under scheme of Survey and also conservation and rehabilitation work on few remarkable historical buildings is initiated.

 Government of Sindh, Official Web Portal.