India, Switzerland, UN brainstorm on urban heritage

September 9th, 2010 - 6:01 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Sep 9 (IANS) A two-day conference to identify areas of partnership between India and Switzerland for heritage-based sustainable urban development began at the India International Centre here Thursday.
The conference, a joint initiative by Unesco, the embassy of Switzerland and the Indian Heritage Cities Network (IHCN) set up under the urban development ministry and several NGOs, laid the ground for exchanges by outlining the broad parameters of sustainable urban development models currently practised in India.

The models are in consonance with the United Nation’s urban development goals unveiled in 1987 that envisage meeting the present-day needs without compromising on the heritage, the core of which is underlined by sensitivity to environment, culture and man’s response to both.

The conference, the first urban development linkage between India and Switzerland, will cover policy dimension of sustainability and urban heritage, mapping and evaluation of urban heritage, planning methods and tools to safeguard the historic urban environment, housing and urban regeneration and environmental sustainability in historic cities.

Addressing the conference, Switzerland ambassador Philippe Welti said the Swiss planning system could provide a cue to India on the way ahead.

“Heritage-based sustainable development and conservation have been easy for us because our urban heritage is barely 800 years old compared to India’s 5,000-year-old urban legacy,” he said.

“The pressure of population on our cities is much less. Whenever we see places in decay we feel sorry for it and motivate people to initiate sustainable development with government support. India has a complex scenario with more cities and bigger population. It is a challenge for India to evolve a sustainable urban development model taking heritage into account,” the Swiss ambassador said.

Heritage-based urban development is a young field of research and the Indian planning system has undergone a major change in the last three decades, during which local bodies were give a greater say in micro-level urban planning.

Unesco officials said the conference could serve as a platform for Swiss and Indian urban planners and conservationists to map sustainable development models for both countries.

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