Call for fighting climate change to preserve Sindh’s heritage

Dr NA Baloch Institute of Heritage Research affiliated with the Sindh government’s antiquities department held its 8th Annual International Conference on Saturday.

Speaking at the conference titled ‘Endangered Heritage of Southern Sindh with Special Reference to Karachi: Issues and Way Forward’, scholar Dr Ghafar Baloch said the institute was established for research on the heritage of Sindh’s different structures.

The institute came into being in 2009 with cooperation of the Sindh government.

He said the province was linked with the civilisation of Mohen-Jo-Daro. The history, he said, reflected that Sindh’s was among the oldest civilisations of the world.

He lamented that the region was currently in the grip of extreme climate change effects and just last year, we witnessed unprecedented rains followed by massive floods.

In such a situation, he stressed the need for taking measures to safeguard our heritage. “It is necessary for us to prepare ourselves for this and also take the international community on board in this regard,” he said, adding that they had experts in their institute to deal with the climate change issue.

He explained that the institute had worked on 20 different research studies in its initial days. It had also published 30 research-based books

Prof Jonathan Mark Kenoyer, who has researched on the coastal region of Pakistan, said that 7000 BC was one of the earliest period when people were settling down in the region. “Today we have countries and boundaries in the region but in the past these areas were not divided,” he said, adding that back then, people would bring jewellery from Oman to Makran to Balochistan.

In Balakot, he said, they had evidence of settlements during the Harappa period.

Architect Arif Hassan said Karachi’s coast had an important tangible culture and he had seen a lot of sites which were now not there. In Gulistan-e-Jauhar, he said, there were Murli Hills that had disappeared.

There was an archaeological site in Bath Island in his childhood where, he said, offices and houses had been erected now.

He said that more than four to five heritage sites would be destroyed for the construction of the Malir Expressway in Karachi. Citing works of Zulfiqar Ali Kalhoro, an anthropologist and assistant professor in the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics, Islamabad, Hassan said his writings on Chowkandi were of great importance.

The architect said there was a wall around Karachi that was dismantled by the British in the 1800s. He also spoke on the Ratneshwar Mahadev Temple in Karachi where some believed Hindu deity Shiva had taken rest.

He explained that in 1983, he had interviewed Hindu and Sindhi scholars who said the temple had been discussed in Mahabharata. He said he read Mahabharata but could not find any mention of Shiva visiting the cave. He, however, added that there was at one point discussion of a cave where seawater would come and it was possible that it was the same cave.

Published in The News 14 May 2023