Last week Government of Sindh’s Culture, Tourism, Antiquities and Archives department organised a conference in Karachi to address the problems of Climate Crises and Heritage in Sindh. The conference was titled “New Challenges to the Physical Heritage: Climate Change Perspective”. It focused on the recent floods in Sindh that not only rendered millions of people homeless but also caused considerable damage to the physical heritage including some UNESCO enlisted world heritage sites. On the other hand, it was also aimed for centenary celebrations of Mohenjo-Daro excavations. It was a public event attended by many archaeologists, heritage experts, heritage enthusiasts and student.
Sindh’s Chief minister Murad Ali Shah, President Karachi Arts Council Muhammad Ahmed Shah, Director General Antiquities and Archeology Manzoor Ahmed Kanasro, renowned Sitara-e-Imtiaz winning archaeologist Kaleemullah Lashari, and Director State Bank Museum Asma Ibrahim attended and shared their thoughts at the event. Their talks were followed by a panel discussion on recent works around Sindh heritage.
Event opened with a documentary report on the damaged caused by rains and floods to several important heritage sites in Sindh. Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah presented statistics on unprecedented nature of this episode of climate crises outburst in the form of rain and floods. He informed that 1100 mm of rain damaged 13000 km of land in which 2000 houses were damaged, and 5 million acres of crop was destroyed. In terms of area, while 1/3 of the country was under water, eighty percent of Sindh province was affected by floods.
Expressing his interest in conservation of heritage, he also mentioned that his family mosque in his village which was built by his great grandfather in 1857 has also been severely damaged and has been deemed unfit to be used for daily prayers. He is making efforts to salvage the original building as he sees it as part of his family legacy. He also mentioned that Sindh government is hoping to develop a long-term sustainable project for building climate resilient houses. He also announced the revival of Sehwan court by Sindh government which will soon be open for tourism.
While he appreciated the support from World Bank and Asian development bank in this time of crises, he also said that Pakistan doesn’t need aid, but it needs justice. He also said that international community’s response to Pakistan’s plan for dealing with climate crises that will be presented in upcoming earth summit will be a real test of how much they care about the world.
Kaleemullah Lashari focused on few big questions concerning heritage given the environmental challenge. In his talk he emphasised the need for comprehensive documentation of heritage sites, importance of impact assessment before starting a new project, and introducing the practice of heritage audit, moving forward. “The world’s future lies within the context of our heritage,” he concluded.
Italian archaeologists Valeria Fiorani Piacentin and her colleague Simone Mantellini who have done excavations at site of Bhanbore for more than a decade now were also in attendance. They shared the details of their project and recent findings of an ivory workshop on the site.
Director General Antiquities said that ministry alone cannot achieve the goals we are setting for the future of heritage in Sindh, it will require a larger social movement. He also said that Sindh is open and welcoming to more foreign interventions and it has always been this way and many renown archeologists such as John Marshall and Mark Kenoyer have a great contribution to Sindh’s archeological heritage. He expressed that the Sindh government wants to reestablish that link with international academics and professionals, and it wants more sites to be integrated in the world heritage list as there are more than 4000 heritage sites in Sindh.
He announced two new initiatives of Sindh government i.e., establishment of a scientific laboratory for research in collaboration with SZABIST university and inauguration of Lok studio which he claimed will be an attempt to move local music from ‘Coke to Lok’.
Asma Ibrahim presented her work on several archaeological sites, including the ancient site of Alladino, some of which have already vanished. She emphasised the need for rethinking and rebuilding the human-nature relationship to reckon with the challenges of climate crises.
The expert panel that followed these talks had two very informative presentations. Founders of Maritime Archaeology and Heritage Institute (MAHI) Heba Hashmi and Amer Bazl Khan introduced their initiative and their ongoing project IMAP. The Inventory of Maritime Archaeology in Pakistan (IMAP) is a multi-phase project that aims to document the endangered maritime archaeology and heritage of the coastline and the Indus deltaic region of Southern Pakistan.
Pratt Archaeologist Uzma Rizvi shared recent developments of her M-Lab project on the site of Mohenjodaro. This project brings together existing data, new data, and an innovative approach to the research and analysis of that data through non-invasive methods.
The conference was an opportunity for people to learn about the ongoing work on heritage and to develop conversations that can help us to collectively decide our way forward. At the time when Pakistan is going through the worst spell of climate crises, it is important to develop integrative plans, raise public awareness and involve community to have a long-term sustainable approach.
(featured image was captured by the author)
Climate change is disturbing everybody in the world. Sind’s archeological work should document other real reasons for the present state of sites.