Invitation – Heritage Cities session – Smart Cities India 2018 Expo – 24 May 2018 from 3.30pm to 4.45pm, at Pragati Maidan, New Delhi. Back

Indian cities face an unprecedented urbanization pressure (50% of India’s population will reside in cities by 2050, UN), which reflects in a rapid and uncontrolled built infrastructure development. Such a development often takes place at the expense of natural eco-systems, human scale and cultural distinctiveness, which in turn significantly compromises sustainability, resilience, social cohesion, inclusiveness and economic opportunities. Climate change and extreme weather events further exacerbate negative effects of this unsustainable urbanization process and further deepen poverty and vulnerability in cities. In this context, achieving the SDGs and the New Urban Agenda targets imperatively comes to reviving and harnessing on cities’ unique cultural and natural assets. Yet, the potential of cultural and natural heritage to address urban development challenges in India has hardly been explored and tapped into.

Built heritage stock is equally facing challenges: with less than 1% of built heritage protected by a national or a state legislation (INTACH), heritage resources are depleting fast. Many historic city cores fall under the category of slums because they lack basic infrastructure services, accessibility, organized mobility. Sustainable urban development interventions rarely take place in these critically important areas due to their complexity and, hence, heritage related socio-economic opportunities that could uplift local communities from poverty and vulnerability remain locked.

Over 70 % of the Indian infrastructure we’ll see by 2030 is yet to be built. We hence live in a critical decade that will determine how Indian cities will operate, handle climate related threats, provide high quality of life and economic opportunities. While the relationship to cities and pressure on cities has changed over time, valuable resilience and sustainability lessons can be learned from traditional urban planning, neighborhood design and architecture, which systematically incorporate three critical components: harmony with natural conditions; human scale; and cultural uniqueness. The Smart Cities Mission identified mixed land-use, walkable localities, open spaces and identity as major features of making urban development holistic and inclusive. All these are fundamental features of historic Indian urban settlements.

The session Heritage Cities: Achieving Urban Sustainability will discuss ways forward to unlock the economic, social and environmental potential of heritage to make Indian cities more inclusive, livable, climate resilient, economically vibrant and competitive.

Sustainable Cities through Heritage Revival (SEHER) is an integrated urban initiative launched by INTACH and UNICITI in 2017 to respond to equally critical needs of preventing built heritage from demolition and of ensuring that urbanization is inclusive, human scale and environmentally sustainable in India.

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