Kerala Heritage Rescue Initiative

Cyclones, typhoons, floods and earthquakes have been identified as the biggest threats to human development. They are also on the rise, with devastating consequences for cultural heritage. For this reason, as a field, we are increasingly finding ourselves in the position of needing to be ready at any moment to intervene after a disaster strikes.

When the Indian state of Kerala and neighbouring districts of Karnataka were hit by the most devastating floods in nearly a century, a group of young volunteer conservation architects banded together to begin the arduous process of documenting and rescuing affected cultural heritage: buildings, movable objects, crafts, landscapes, libraries and cultural traditions and rituals.

With the help of ICCROM and ICOMOS India, the Kerala Heritage Rescue Initiative has been using a crowdmap to collect data on damaged cultural heritage of all types. The information collected through this survey will help in visualizing the location, extent and degree of damage and subsequently prioritizing emergency interventions to damaged heritage through evacuation, salvage and stabilization.

Additionally, ICCROM has delivered emergency training in First Aid to Cultural Heritage via Skype lectures to a team of volunteers led by conservation architect Ms Surya Prasanth. They have since trained others are now carrying out damage and risk assessments, and salvaging the damaged heritage.

ICCROM is proud to be supporting this outstanding example of dedicated young professionals coming together and providing a coordinated and effective response in the face of this immense and tragic disaster. We will continue to support this initiative and those of the Indian authorities with the hope that the recovery of this damaged and destroyed heritage will lead to greater resilience for the future.

A forthcoming mission is planned with the Kerala government, which will take place within the framework of ICCROM’s flagship First Aid to Cultural Heritage in Times of Crisis initiative.