Qutb Shahi Heritage Park: A non-profit Public – Private Partnership
In January 2013, the MoU between the Department of Archaeology and Museum (DAM), Quli Qutb Shah Urban Development Authority (QQSUDA) and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) was signed to commence this major conservation and landscape restoration effort at this unique necropolis listed on the tentative World Heritage List.
Though the project could not commence until late 2013 on account of a Wakf Tribunal order prohibiting urgently needed works, the support from the Tata Trusts for funding of conservation works on 10 major monuments was pledged in 2013 itself. In 2015, the Hon’ble Minister of Finance, Government of India pledged additional funding for building tourism infrastructure at the Qutb Shahi Heritage Park.
In 2015, significant conservation works were undertaken and the understanding of the site significantly enhanced with a sustained archival research programme and archaeological excavations; the latter supported by the US Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation. In 2015, 3D Laser scanning technology for documentation of the monuments and site was introduced here.
This report summarises the works carried out and begins to list objectives for 2016 and future years. The conservation of Sultan Quli’s tomb where restoration of missing stucco plaster patterns was possible when 16th century stucco plaster was revealed on the removal of modern cement layers and the similar effort at the Idgah were no doubt the most significant achievements of 2015. The nature of the work was such that an independent peer review required a week’s deliberations.
For the conservation of the 75 individual monuments that stand within the Qutb Shahi Heritage Park, master craftsmen – stone carvers, plasterers, masons, carpenters – are expected to clock at least 500,000 man-days of work. Conservation of India’s built heritage is dependent on the survival of these craft skills and for which a greater number of conservation opportunities need to be created.
In December, a three day conference provided an opportunity to share the conservation effort with multiple stakeholders in Hyderabad and also bring in national and international experts to Hyderabad to share their experiences.
While conservation works will continue for the remainder of the seven year project, the immediate challenge is to integrate Deccan Park and commence landscape restoration which will also significantly enhance visitor experience. Linkages with Golconda fort could also be established though this will need additional agreements with the Archaeological Survey of India.
The principal objective of this project remains to ensure long term preservation of the monuments which is most likely to be achieved by a return to the use of traditional materials in the conservation project. This is to be coupled by a sensitive restoration of the immediate setting of the monuments. In reviving the use of the baolis and planting of native flora the project also has significant ecological aspirations.
Simultaneously, the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) has commenced an education programme in the neighbourhoods and will eventually develop a larger socio-economic programme to improve quality of life.