New Delhi: The devastating blaze at the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris should serve as a ‘wake-up call’ for India, a global heritage expert said Wednesday and suggested that the new government should conduct a ‘national-level fire audit’ of museums and other cultural landmarks within 12 months in office.
Vinod Daniel, an India-born Australian and top museum specialist, also said that along with the central-level exercise, a state-level fire safety auditing should also be done as a large portion of India’s cultural and architectural wealth are locally governed.
The iconic cathedral, part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the most celebrated monuments globally.
Days ahead of the World Heritage Day (April 18), an inferno ripped through the over 850-year-old iconic Paris landmark destroying a large part of its roof and causing its central spire to collapse, leaving the world stunned.
Daniel, 57, who is a board member of the Paris-based International Council of Museums (ICOM), says while Indians have reacted very emotionally to the incident, which is important, but as a nation, India should take valuable lessons out of this loss and ‘assess its own fire safety and risk management capabilities’.
“It should have been taken note of immediately but since elections are underway, we will have to wait for the new government. But, the next government, should conduct a national-level fire safety audit of museums and other cultural and architectural landmarks within the first 12 months of its office,” Daniel said.
The global museum expert said besides the UNESCO heritage sites, many old and iconic temples and other places of worship spread across the country are listed under state archaeology departments and therefore, state-level audits should be done in consonance with the national exercise.
Daniel had last December cautioned that a majority of museums and cultural repositories in India were at risk of suffering ‘grave damage’ in the event of a major fire, and suggested that a disaster management plan be properly implemented by these institutions.
The Sydney-based expert said fire globally is the ‘number one threat’ for any such building, roughly ‘one in 3,000 buildings’ run that risk.
“And, that is why India needs to do the central-level and state-level audits, and then a budget should be allocated to ensure a timeline-based comprehensive risk management plan. And, these audits need to be done periodically,” he said.
“We need to have comprehensive risk management guidelines and India needs to revisit its risk management strategy if we want to protect our heritage from such incidents,” the Sydney-based expert said.