Remember we are the custodians of the heritage, not the owners

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03 Oct 2021 | 5:07 AM HIST

Remember we are the custodians of the heritage, not the owners

Do people have to go out on the streets to protect state heritage sites? Apparently yes.

On Gandhi Jayanti, there were two protests – a few miles apart – where citizens concerned about the assault on visible architectural heritage gathered to raise their voices for its preservation. From children to the elderly, they called for preservation of monuments, with some of the younger ones even embracing trees that should be axed at one of the sites.

The protests took place in Old Goa and Chimbel. The first is a World Heritage Site – the only one in Goa – which attracts visitors from all over the world, which every VIP and VVIP is brought to visit, but which receives little attention from the authorities. The latest affront to the World Heritage site is an upcoming construction that the Save Old Goa front fought against. These are the ruins of a monastery where many trees have been classified to be cut down to make way for a retirement home. This cutting of trees is what people are against.

A heritage site cannot speak for itself and neither can trees, so they need people to speak for them. Fortunately, there are people out there who are willing to do it, and they do it selflessly. Do those who fight for heritage get anything in return? Personal gains are zero. Unlike the political class who tackle the issues where they get feedback – or at least some publicity for what they are fighting – these are people on a mission with no personal rewards other than the knowledge they have made their own. part for the conservation and restoration of the legacy they inherited from their ancestors and for the trees that have stood on the earth for decades.

Current generations must remember that they are not owners of heritage but simple custodians of it and that they will hand over what they received from their ancestor to their descendants. As guardians, it is not for them to do with it what they want, but to protect it and keep it for posterity. It is only when this is anchored in everyone’s mind that the heritage will be preserved. Those who believe in it are doing the right thing. What we are seeing here is not only experts calling for preservation of heritage, but people – the common man too – who appreciate it and demand the same.

There are laws, there are rules for heritage preservation, but they can all be bypassed and bypassed. Old Goa must be protected, all state heritage sites must also be preserved from damage. But you can’t expect people to stand up and protest every time there is an attempt to cut down a tree, encroach on a heritage area, or change the zoning of a heritage site. If this happens, it means there has been a governance failure. Heritage conservation must be taken seriously and existing laws cannot be diluted or circumvented. That laws are bypassed does not mean that it should continue to happen. It should stop.

Can the government assure the people that the State’s heritage – tangible and intangible – will be protected? Goa needs strategies to regenerate its heritage, but instead time is wasted struggling to stop the erasure of what exists. Professionals who could have devoted their time and expertise to improving the structure of the heritage while respecting the principles of conservation are called upon to ensure that the sites are not altered. The focus should be on a future with the heritage that exists today remaining intact.


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