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Shikarpoor Heritage Inventory and Mapping: Empowering the Community through Information Sharing

An official gazette notification in September 1998 by the Government of Sindh's Department of Culture declared "Shikarpoor Historic Town" a protected heritage site under the Sindh Cultural Heritage Preservation Act of 1994. This included legal protection for houses built up to 1950 and their wood and iron works. The generalized format of this notification, however, could not help prevent the ongoing demolitions of historic havelis.

A comprehensive mapping and inventory compilation of Shikarpoor’s historic, cultural, and environmental assets, undertaken by Heritage Cell of the Department of Architecture and Planning, NED University (2007 and 2011), provided a sound base to initiate a campaign for property-specific listings to be recognized by the Department of Culture. In March 2012, these efforts bore fruit as an official notification of 1,203 properties, including 1,175 buildings, 12 open spaces, and 16 urban elements within Shikarpoor’s municipal limits were declared protected heritage. Detailed information on all of these properties is now available as a two-volume monograph published in February 2013 and titled Shikarpoor: Historic City—Inventory & Mapping of Heritage Properties. Published through the support of the Endowment Fund Trust for Preservation of the Heritage of Sindh, it makes information on listed properties readily accessible to the public.

The initiative endeavors to capture and record information about the fast-disappearing historic environment; compile a comprehensive database on cultural properties to allow for effective decision-making in support of heritage conservation by city managers and planners; provide a resource for researchers, scholars, and students interested in history and traditional built environments of the region; and above all to raise public awareness toward the historic significance of Shikarpoor and build a sense of pride among the community and other stakeholders.

These monographs are now a source of in-depth understanding on characteristic features that need to be safeguarded and go a step further in defining parameters of merit that contribute to the built environment. Compiled and mapped in eight sections, in accordance with administrative divisions of the city, the catalogue includes complete maps identifying the location of all listed properties. Each one of 1,203 properties has a separate inventory form that provides information, including pictures and a location map along with analytical information, enabling an understanding for significance and attached values. These directional, self-guiding, and self-explanatory inventories attempt to fill in the gap of existing lacunae of professional expertise in the field of heritage conservation. They also help to empower the community to act as vigilant and informed custodians and volunteer watch-guards over illegal demolition activities. This was the message conveyed to resident communities on 20 November, 2014, through WMF Watch Day activities organized at Shikarpoor through a joint collaboration of World Monuments Fund, Sindh Endowment Fund Trust, and NED University.