Theme A: RESPONSE IN THE IMMEDIATE AFTERMATH
Managing the heritage and tourism response in the immediate aftermath of a disaster can be a challenge when resources are scarce, and rescue, first aid, and humanitarian activities take precedence. In the heritage sector, the cultural emergency response, in particular the salvage, stabilization and documentation process can pose various questions such as when should these processes commence, who gets involved in this process, for whom and what purpose, and in what format.
Similarly, the tourism sector is faced with questions of how visitors and tourists will be managed at heritage sites post-disaster. How does the tourism sector balance loss of income, in the form of entrance fees, with safety concerns and the need for heritage professionals to undertake salvage, stabilization and documentation to prevent theft of cultural property? Particularly important in this process is the exploration of disaster preparedness plans in place for heritage sites and to assess whether they were implemented post-disaster during the 25 April 2015 earthquake. This theme shall encourage critical discussions on the theories and practice of heritage and tourism emergency response in post-disaster situations.
Theme B: POST-DISASTER REHABILITATION PROCESS
Fundamental to heritage conservation is the notion of ‘authenticity’. Authenticity is known to have different connotations across cultures. In post-disaster contexts, lack of adequate documentation, time and resources, and growing pressure from the community can cause rebuilding of structures whose authenticity may be questioned. Why is it important to rebuild these monuments– for the community to continue their rituals or for the appreciation by the visitors? Where does the value lie?
Past earthquakes in Nepal have shown that reconstruction of some heritage structures have taken place in haste and with little regard for the ‘built’ aspects of what existed in the past. Professionals and institutions engaged in the recovery and rebuilding process may struggle to ensure authenticity amidst time constraints and a lack of coordination among stakeholders and donors who commence conservation and restoration immediately with the intention to safeguard what is remaining. Equally important in the rebuilding process is heritage interpretation to ensure truthful communication of information to visitors and tourists. This theme explores the principles of conservation, including the complex issues of authenticity and integrity during the post-disaster rebuilding process, and the important role of heritage interpretation in ensuring authenticity in communication of information.
Theme C: INTERACTION BETWEEN COMMUNITIES AND NATURAL SITES
This theme focuses on the link between communities and natural sites. Nepal is rich in its natural resources, and communities can be found within or in close proximity to these resources, e.g. in buffer zones. Buffer zones are set up to ensure the ecological integrity of protected areas, and to enable local communities to sustain their livelihoods through active management of natural resources. Significant challenges can arise, however in managing this interaction between communities and sites.
Some examples of such sites in Nepal include the Chitwan National Park and Langtang National Park. Both parks face varied issues. At Chitwan National Park, discussions are required for instance on how resources from the forest such as fodder and fuel wood can be sustainability harvested by the community and the role of the community in protecting the site. On the other hand, the recent earthquake has wiped out entire villages at Langtang, and questions arise as to how rehabilitation of these villages will take place.
How can communities access direct benefits of tourism? What role should communities play in protecting these natural resources? What role does tourism play in including the narrative of these communities in the presentation of these sites? This theme, therefore explores the link between communities and natural sites that receive significant tourists, and welcomes papers that explore these issues in both pre- and post-disaster contexts.
Theme D: REHABILITATION OF COMMUNITIES AT CULTURAL HERITAGE SITES
The Kathmandu Valley World Heritage Site is inscribed on the World Heritage List not for only its monuments but also for the cultural traditions of local communities, manifested in the urban settlements, buildings and structures and its outstanding craftsmanship in brick, stone, timber and bronze. The integrity of the Kathmandu Valley World Heritage Site hinges on the rich urban fabric that provides a setting for the monuments. With a majority of assistance for heritage conservation likely to go to the rebuilding of monuments, there is a need to discuss how the communities at these cultural heritage sites will rebuild post-disaster.
Of pertinence to both heritage and tourism sectors are challenges that are likely to arise during the rebuilding of communities including the inherent dichotomy in balancing the requirements prescribed by heritage legislation for the rebuilding of homes, gentrification caused by tourism, lack of basic infrastructure and safety, and the increasing commercialization/commodification of these areas due to tourism. Like in other parts of the world, tourism has been a driver for increased economic activity. Questions also arise as to what impact tourism has on such communities located at culture heritage sites and in a post-disaster scenario, how tourism can contribute to the rebuilding of these communities. This theme, therefore, welcomes discussions and successful models that inspire meaningful engagement of both tourism and heritage sectors in community rehabilitation.
Theme E: MANAGING VISITORS AT CULTURAL AND NATURAL HERITAGE SITES
Visitor management is a key aspect for consideration during the process of rehabilitation. There are issues of visitor safety as well as the security of irreplaceable heritage artifacts. The heritage and tourism sectors are also responsible for ensuring visitors and tourists experience the ‘reality’ of the impact of the disaster at heritage sites. How can this reality be best expressed? For cultural heritage sites, should the viewing of displaced artifacts, for instance, be a part of the visitor and tourist experience? How can visitor management be integrated into the post-disaster heritage rehabilitation process so that there is sensitive engagement with cultural and natural heritage sites and their communities, and compliance with site carrying capacities? How can heritage interpretation contribute to the visitor management process? This theme explores how both heritage and tourism sectors can negotiate the needs of safeguarding heritage monuments and sites, and plan for heritage conservation and restoration whilst also exploring the nuances of heritage tourism in post-disaster rehabilitation.