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Experts from India and Japan Discuss the Current State of Environmental Heritage Surrounding Water (10/18 Symposium Report)
On October 18, 2019, an international symposium titled "Water Structure as a Cultural Heritage in India and Japan" was held in the new No. 7 Lecture Hall on the Tokyo University of Science's Noda Campus. Water is an important resource for us humans, but can also be the cause of large disasters. Humankind's obligation is to strategically build a relationship with water, and the facilities that play a role in doing so are civil engineering and structures. At this symposium set against the backdrop of Noda Campus, which borders Tone Canal, structures referred to as "stepwells" that were created in various locations across India were introduced and examples of community development making use of the spring water in Mishima City, Shizuoka Prefecture were raised. Discussions were also held on the regeneration of the water environment.
The symposium started off with a greeting by Professor Akira Hyogo, who is also the Director of TUS' Noda Campus, on the importance of flood control and water utilization, in line with the damages from Typhoon No. 19. Then, reports were presented in the order of the sessions below, based on progress from Professor Tatsuo Iwaoka of TUS' Department of Architecture.
In Session 1: "India's Stepwells", Ashikaga University Associate Professor Takashi Ono (TUS alumni) reported on the "Sakura Science Plan 2018-2019", which is a joint research plan between TUS and Chitkara University in India and that served as the origin behind the implementation of this symposium. Chitkara University, where Professor Ono had been working up until last year, had been conducting present state surveys on stepwells remaining in central India over the past few years; at the same time, TUS' Iwaoka Research Lab had also been conducting landscape surveys on walking paths along springs in Mishima City, and in order to reciprocally share this information, on-site inspections, workshops, etc. have been held up to now. The results of these surveys were exhibited that day on a posterboard panel and through a model in conference rooms, etc. adjacent to the venue.
Furthermore, at the symposium, Assistant Professor Yamini Gupta from Chitkara University presented a detailed report on the results of investigative research on stepwells in Narnaul City and Jhunjhunu City in central India. In addition, Philip Earis, the founder of the Stepwell-Atlas website, delivered a strong message on the true intention behind the launch of his website, and on the architectural appeal of stepwells and their influence on modern architecture.
In Session 2: "Examples of Use of Water Environment in Japan", Toyohiro Watanabe, Representative Director of the NPO Groundwork Mishima and a specially-appointed professor at Tsuru University, reported on the regeneration of the waterside environment in Mishima. The water of Genbei River, which flows through the central part of Mishima City, is abundant spring water from Mt. Fuji, and used to play an indispensable role as domestic water for residents up until about 50 years ago. After the period of rapid growth, water volume declined and the river became a drainage channel overflowing with rubbish and oil. Groundwork Mishima was the first civic organization that made approaches toward regenerating the river. Today's beautiful water landscape was restored, thanks to reciprocal gathering of opinions among local administration, private companies, and residents of Mishima. Know-how to regenerate the water environment in Mishima in such a way that is not limited to simply water purification technology is a highly effective method for many other regions as well.
In Session 3: "Water Resources as a World Heritage", two experts on conservation and recovery of buildings who were invited from India participated in a panel discussion hosted by a faculty member from TUS. Before the discussion, conservation architect Priyanka Singh provided explanations on three examples of conserving and restoring historical structures related to the water environment in India that she herself had worked on. In addition, Kiran Joshi, former head of the School of Planning & Architecture at Chitkara University, gave several examples of world cultural heritages related to water environments, and commented on the value and assessment of India's stepwells as world heritages (only 1 as of today). Lastly, TUS professor Yoshiyuki Yamana, who is an expert on the modern history of architecture and who plays a central role in registration of world heritages at the National Museum of Western Art, discussed the trends and selection criteria of ICOMOS, which is an advisory body for the World Heritage Committee.
At the end of the symposium, the architectural historian Riichi Miyake, who is also a visiting professor at TUS, summarized the symposium as a whole and presented valuable comments on expectations for actualization of and further investigative research on stepwells, which had already existed in large numbers around the world, mainly in India, but were not well known; the importance of methods for regenerating the water landscape in a manner that engages local administration, residents and private companies as seen in Mishima; the effectiveness of and issues with world cultural heritage registration, which has already become popular, etc.