Indian Town Struggles to Balance Architectural Heritage and Living Heritage

Recent events in the southern India town of Hampi, recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, expose the struggle to balance the needs of historical tourist sites and those who make their livelihood from them, writes Rachel Proctor May.

When the Hampi World Heritage Area Management Authority (HWHAMA) bulldozed homes and businesses in the bazaar adjacent to the archaeological treasures of the former capital of the Vijayanagara Empire, they may have helped protect the city's "dead" architectural heritage, but it came at the cost of destroying the "living" heritage of 300 families, "who had made their living selling handicrafts, bottled water, banana pancakes, and other tourist goodies to the hundreds of thousands of visitors who hit Hampi each year," writes Rachel Proctor May. 

"Officially," says May, "the structures that were destroyed had no right to exist in the first place, although the same could be said for many, if not most, of the structures in a country where land titling is still poorly documented and subject to dispute."

Although the destruction of the bazaar followed at least a decade of discussion over "how to best manage both Hampi's wealth of architectural heritage and the living heritage of its residents," May writes that "the debate is far from over."

"Hampi as a whole is over 100 square kilometers peppered with thousands of ruins, and other families who make a living among those ruins. Local activists are pushing UNESCO and the Indian government for a number of reforms, including a more thorough compensation package, true citizen involvement in how to manage living and historical heritage, and a stronger institutional role for local democratic institutions rather than the unaccountable bureaucratic agency of HWHAMA."


Full Story: Destroying the living city to preserve the past: evicting squatters from the ruins in Hampi


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