The ICOMOS, a global monument conservation body, has launched an initiative to assess the damage to the rich cultural and built heritage in flood-devastated Kerala and set up an emergency response platform, an official said today.
The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) is a prestigious non-government organisation dedicated to promoting the application of theory, methodology and scientific techniques for conservation of architectural and archaeological heritage across the world.
"We launched the Kerala Heritage Rescue Initiative yesterday as the heritage in the flood-ravaged state is indeed damaged. We are also seeking support from the state government, the NDMA (National Disaster Management Authority) and reaching out to local conservation professionals," Vice President, ICOMOS, Rohit Jigyasu told PTI.
The initiative also aims at setting up a platform for emergency response to the cultural heritage damaged by the floods in Kerala.
"We have also set up a Facebook page to collect information on the damage to buildings, museum collections, cultural artefacts, libraries, archives, and even intangible heritage," he said.
Jigyasu, a conservation and disaster risk management professional, who also holds the post of ICOMOS-India president, said, "Letters have been sent to the Kerala government and various other stakeholders, the response has been positive so far."
Kerala is facing its worst floods in nearly a century that has left 223 dead in a fortnight and forced over 10 lakh people out of their homes. The Centre has declared this calamity of 'severe nature'.
"While in the immediate aftermath of this disaster, rescue and relief are the utmost priority, it is also important to start preparations for assessing the damage and risks to the rich tangible, intangible, movable and immovable heritage that has been adversely affected by these floods, including monuments, historic buildings, museum collections and artefacts of significance to the community," Jigyasu said.
He said as recalled in the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, cultural heritage and its protection "helps build resilience" and enhances the ability of the affected population to participate in its own recovery.
"We want to prepare until the humanitarian response phase is over. We will then create a heritage response team and train its members to undertake damage assessment and emergency measures," the ICOMOS vice-president said.
"Meanwhile, we want to prepare the teams to undertake tasks on the ground. After the situation becomes better, we will send relevant experts to the affected areas as well," he said.
Jigyasu said ICOMOS has also approached various organisation seeking funds to carry out multiple activities as envisioned.
"One of the works includes creation of a rapid response team for heritage consisting of architects, engineers, conservators, historians, and all those who are concerned about heritage and willing to give a helping hand," he said.
The ICOMOS-India chief said it has also approached the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM) to partner in the post-disaster work, Jigyasu said.
Rome-based ICCROM is an inter-governmental organisation dedicated to the preservation of cultural heritage worldwide through training, information, research, cooperation and advocacy programmes.
"Meanwhile, we are spearheading action through our local members and associates in Kerala," he said.
Kerala is endowed with natural beauty, and is home to a number of iconic forts, palaces and other heritage buildings, which attract a huge number of tourists every year.
ICOMOS is also an advisory body to the UNESCO for cultural heritage, in particular for implementation of the World Heritage Convention.
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