UNESCO launches cultural mapping project

Published: April 19, 2011
Takht Bahi, a 2,100-year-old Buddhist monastery near Mardan, is one of the many historical sites included in the project. PHOTO: FILE

Takht Bahi, a 2,100-year-old Buddhist monastery near Mardan, is one of the many historical sites included in the project. PHOTO: FILE


UNESCO has developed a Geographical Information System (GIS) compatible “National Database for Pakistan’s Cultural Assets” to safeguard and preserve the cultural and natural heritage of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P).

According to a press release, the contribution was made possible through the cooperation of the Ministry of Culture and its affiliated departments, namely the National Institute of Folk Heritage (Lok Virsa), Pakistan National Council of the Arts (PNCA) and the Department of Archaeology and Museums (DOAM).

Lok Virsa was selected to store, maintain and update information on the country’s tangible and
intangible assets.

“It is hoped that through these concerted efforts, the cultural heritage of Pakistan will not only be protected, but also employed as an instrument of an economy that is both cyclical and self-perpetuating”, Dr Fazaldad Kakar, Director-General, Department of Archaeology and Museums, said on the launch of the mapping project in Mardan.

Funded by the Norwegian government, the database was developed as one of the key objectives of UNESCO Islamabad’s project in 2007 called “Mapping of cultural assets in NWFP”.

The programme takes UNESCO one step forward in its global commitment to developing methodologies for documenting and enhancing culture for community benefit.

The programme was handed over to the end-users, Hazara University, along with an additional sub-system to attach multiple videos, audios
and photos.

Cultural mapping was carried out in the local communities of Peshawar, Mardan, Mansehra, Chitral, Bannu, Charsadda and Swat. However due to the volatile situation in the region since 2008, after covering the first four districts, it was moved to Multan and Bahawalpur in Punjab.

By expanding the scope of the project to the local communities of a different province, significant cultural characteristics of these mapped areas were added to the database.

Seeing the level of interest generated, suggestions have been made to expand and initiate projects that link culture with development at district level. Universities have also shown keen interest in setting up data centres.

This could be instrumental in demonstrating the advantages of a devolving culture to the locals, who, being the primary sources of their heritage, are fully capable of managing their cultural resources.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 19th, 2011.

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