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Preserving the archaeological heritage sites

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NEWS media reported that a 18th-century heritage building, believed to be the residence of Armenian philanthropist and educationist Nicholas Pogose, has been almost demolished. Despite a High Court's injunction, the occupants have been knocking down the Sudhamoy House situated in the city's old town while law enforcers remain bystanders. The first negligence comes on the part of the Department of Archaeology as it failed to declare the house as a heritage site. It is observed that the aggression of mercantilism and consumerism slowly converted the city and disassociated it from its old history by demolishing heritage sites. The ministry concerned should not bow before money and troublemakers in preserving the sites as the historical buildings also have a huge potential due to heritage tourism.

Following a vernacular daily's report, the High Court Division in a suo moto rule directed the ministry and department concern to preserve the structure as it is. Due to police's inaction, demolition proceeded without any obstruction and so the landmark structure is disappearing quickly. Occupants said they purchased the house at a cost of crores of taka in 2005 with the involvement of the local MP as a broker.

Historic buildings are a nation's invaluable cultural property; therefore, a country's heritage preservation policies narrate a crucial story of that country's aggregate intellectual evolution. The absence of a comprehensive national preservation plan to safeguard cultural patrimony has long been identified, rightly, as the main cause for the fast disappearance of our heritage sites. Neither did the ruling regimes see any real political leverage in heritage preservation nor did the owners of historic buildings understand the economic possibilities in saving their buildings from the crushing modernity of high-rise apartment blocks! Legislative measures alone will not be enough to stop rampant demolitions because economic incentives to tear down a building often outweigh the "manageable" penalty for breaking the law.

If the maddening traffic congestion is controlled, Old Dhaka appears ripe for an intervention of heritage tourism. The financial benefits of architectural tourism have not been explored in Bangladesh. It is a moral imperative of a country to preserve those physical traces that both reveal and strengthen its complex national identity. The Pogos building should not be knocked down by doing it, we are also hammering the history and all other historic buildings in  old Dhaka should be preserved with due importance and procedure for the nation's future.

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