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Heritage Conservation in Cities of India

Published: 7th Mar, 2022


Need for Cultural heritage sites in India’s cities to be protected so that the current and future citizens are rooted in their heritage and feel proud of it.


  • Cities and towns act as catalyst for cultural, social and economic development.
  • Half of the world’s population already lived in urban settlement.
  • Historical sites represent the heart of the cities which play a very important role in creating a stimulating and economically attractive environment for inhabitants.
  • The development of these sites is an integral part of societies that comprises historic buildings, urban spaces and people using them.

This brief focused on the current issues faced by India’s rich cultural heritages and also suggest changes for development while maintaining current qualities.


About India’s rich cultural heritage:

  • India, as an ancient and living civilisation, is enormously rich in cultural heritage.
  • Its diversity is equally vast this is due to India having assimilated into itself thousands of years of diverse cultural trends.
  • This richnessis visible in its tangible heritage—archaeological sites, monuments, landscapes, arti-facts, and other structures of historical value—and its intangible heritage comprising language, music, festivals, dance, social practices, and customs.

Cultural heritage

  • Cultural heritage is typically understood to be built heritage, monuments related to culture such as museums, religious buildings, ancient structures and sites.
  • They constitute an integral part of nations’ history, identity and regional diversity

Significance of cultural heritage

  • Conveys diverse messages and values that contribute to give a meaning to people’s life.
  • Represents the identity of a social group.
  • Represents a vehicle for understanding the diversity of people and developing a policy for peace and mutual comprehension.
  • A source of economic development.

What are the persistent challenges in conserving heritage?

  • Accelerating globalization
  • Structural, social and demographic changes
  • Environmental problems
  • Urban growth
  • Other challenges include:
    • Variety of heritages that are to be protected
    • Process of selection
    • Volume of heritage structures in Indian cities
    • Finance needed to protect them
    • Reconciling heritage conservation with future development

Constitutional and Legal Provision to protect India’s heritage:

The Indian Constitution casts a responsibility on both the State and Citizen of India to protect and conserve heritage. 

  • Article 49, which is one of the Directive Principles of State Policy, states, “It shall be the obligation of the State to protect every monument or place or object of artistic or historic interest, (declared by or under law made by Parliament) to be of national importance, from spoilation, disfigurement, destruction, removal, disposal or export, as the case may be.” 
  • The Directive Principles of State Policy of India are the guidelines or principles given to the institutes for governing the State of India.
  • These are provided Part IV (Article 36-51) of the Constitution of India, are not enforceable by any court, but the principles laid down there in are considered 'Fundamental' in the governance of the country, making it the duty of the State to apply these principles in making laws to establish a just society in the country. 


  • Article 51 A (f), one of the Fundamental Duties of the Indian Citizens, states: “It shall be the duty of every citizen of India to value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture; and (g) to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life, and to have compassion for living creatures.”

To back these two Constitutional provisions, the Central and state governments have enacted number and implemented a number laws with respect to heritage conservation.

  • One of them is the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act 1958 that provides for the preservation of ancient and historical monuments, archaeological sites and remains of national importance.
  • The above law also creates National Monument Authority which is charged with the grading and classifying the protected monuments and areas.

India have nationally protected monuments numbering around 3,650 that are looked after by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), functioning under the Ministry of Culture and state-protected monuments that are administered by the directorates of state archaeology. Together, they protect about 10,000 structures, which form a miniscule fraction, though the most significant, of the country’s total heritage.

 Archaeological Survey of India:

  • ASI works under the Ministry of Culture.
  • It takes care of around 3,650 nationally protected monuments.
  • It is also tasked with protecting state-protected monuments that are administered by the directorates of state archaeology.
  • Together, they protect about 10,000 structures, which form a miniscule fraction, though the most significant, of the country’s total heritage.

Efforts made by Cities in India to conserve archaeological heritage:

  • For the purpose of expanding the effort towards heritage conservation, some major Indian cities have stepped up their efforts.
  • They have prepared City Heritage Lists that comprise such heritage sites that neither figure as national heritage nor fall in the category of state heritage. However, they have considerable local significance.
  • Cities have also framed their own regulations with state approval for the conservation of local heritage.
  • Mumbai was the first city to come up with such a list in the mid-1990s. Several citieshave followed suit that include Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Bengaluru and many more.
  • Heritage sites included in these city lists are generally graded into Grade I, Grade II, and Grade III structures, depending on their significance in terms of history and culture.
  • Many of the city heritage lists have several hundred pieces of heritage listed.
  • These contain both public and private properties and these lists have consistently expanded.

Suggestive measures

  • Effective strategy formulation: A careful strategy that preserves heritage in the best possible manner without they becoming obstacle to the development of cities needs to be adopted.
  • Learning from experts: Therefore, a proper balance amongst other varieties of heritage ought to be observed. Guidance here could be taken from the UNESCO’s World Heritage List(WHL).

World Heritage List

World Heritage List divides its heritage selection into cultural, natural, and mixed sites.

  • Cultural heritage comprises historical buildings and archaeological sites, sculpture, and painting.
  • Natural heritage includes sites of exceptional natural beauty, exceptional biodiversity, habitats for rare and endangered animals and plants and such things of rare natural significance.
  • Mixed heritage sites contain elements of both natural and cultural significance.
  • Increasing public awareness: Illiteracy affects the monuments badly due to the ignorance of the importance of historical sites to the national income for societies. Thus, raising the educational level of people is essential for conservation.
  • Investment: The government needs to focus on enhancing the surrounding conditions of the heritage through funding and investment.

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