Conservation of Culture

Q) Why do we need to conserve culture? Describe the main areas of Indian culture where conservation is needed?

Q) Identify important areas from the Indian tourism point of view where conservation is required. Explain with relevant examples?

Q) What should be the role of the government in the preservation, conservation of culture while promoting tourism?

Conservation has to be a concerted effort. It cannot be achieved in one area in isolation. Participation of local population is the most important aspect of conservation. The government with vast resources is definitely in a position to help in conservation efforts.

1. Conservation of Natural Heritage

The geographical diversity of India is unmatched. We have Goan beaches, deserts in Rajasthan, mighty Himalayas etc. But the most important feature of our natural heritage is the National parks and wildlife sanctuaries. National heritage is a strong marketing point in tourism. Uni-horn Rhino in Kaziranga, Tiger in Ranthambore and elephants of Periyar are examples. The increasing number of tourists is causing air, noise pollutions and affecting the eco system. The carrying capacities should be worked out by the tourism authorities in consultation with forest authorities and work out the no.of visitors to be allowed per day. This is already in practice at Ranthambore.

Eco-tourism aims at promoting a kind of responsible tourism which is eco-friendly and does not destroy the environmental balance. If we fail to preserve our natural heritage, other areas of our heritage dependent on natural heritage will also be destroyed. Authorities should formulate Do's and Don'ts for tourists, which should be enforced strictly. Visitors need to be educated about carrying capacity of the destination.

The income from entry fee must be invested back for long term measures to preserve the landscape and its constituents. Investment should be make in R & D for proper care of the destination. We can replicate the successful models employed by national parks in USA and Europe after altering them to suit our specific needs.

2. Conservation of Historical Heritage

Historical heritage includes religious monuments, archaeological sites, palaces, houses etc. Laws must be enacted for the conservation of historical monuments. France was the first to enact a law to protect cultural property in 1809. In 1878 Indian Treasure Trove Act was passed. Greece and Egypt passed similar Acts. Ancient monuments preservation act and antiquities act were also passed by India. Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) was established in 1861 for the preservation of monuments and archaeological sites. Other states have also enacted laws based on central laws.

World Heritage sites were declared by UNESCO for the protection of sites and monuments which are the concern of mankind. India has 16 cultural sites and 4 natural sites. Main problems in conservation of monuments are
  • Lack of awareness and importance by general public about monuments
  • Lack of infrastructure and man power
  • Defacement by visitors
  • Lack of co-ordination between governmental and non-governmental agencies
Agencies with expertise of preservation are
  • Archaeological Survey of India
  • State departments of archaeology & museum
  • National research laboratory for conservation
The no.of visitors must be limited keeping in mind the condition of the monuments. Visitors must be educated about conservation so that they behave responsibly inside such monuments. Revenue should be invested back for conservation. Large no.of monuments outside the list are defaced by locals with vested interests. Eg: Windows and doors of such houses are pulled out in Rajasthan and Gujarat.

3. Conservation of Artistic and Cultural Heritage

Our artistic and cultural heritage is our USP in international tourism market. While tourists are welcome to observe and understand our celebrations, efforts must be taken to insulate our heritage from getting affected by visitors' lifestyle. Eg: Pushkar Fair in Rajasthan became an area of drug use. Authentic Indian style of paintings and handicrafts have now become more tourist oriented. Their originality is lost.

4. Conservation of Socio-Economic Heritage

In an effort to attract tourists, states are opening up fragile areas like deserts, tribal areas, hills and coastal areas for tourists. AIDS have been reported in Jaisalmer as a result of this opening up policy. The behavioral pattern of young generation in Jaisalmer is similar to that of tourists which is a worrying sign. At Beneshwar tribal fair, due to lack of awareness tourists took photos of bathing tribal women which led to unrest. After this, Rajasthan stopped promoting this event to tourists.

While promoting tourism in sensitive areas, the authorities must consider
  • Carrying capacity
  • Special nature of fairs/festivals
  • Sensibilities of locals
  • Educating visitors about Do's and Don'ts
  • Discourage long stays by tourists
  • Only special interest tourists who are really interested must be allowed
  • Locals must be associated in tourism activities to reap economic benefits
  • Restricted heritage zones and open areas for tourists must be well defined
Such restrictions have really helped in preserving the heritage of Andaman and Nicobar and Lakshadweep Islands.

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