Historic buildings by their layout, form and materials often give a sense of place and identity in a world of increasingly ubiquitous new buildings, where a new or redeveloped town centre looks very much like another. There are landmark buildings, such as temples, mosques, churches, town halls or a row of houses that provide reference points in the local built landscape. The local environment is the immediate setting for the lives of people who reside or work there and often historic areas have a human scale that may not be found otherwise. Historic areas display advanced townscape qualities that have evolved over a long period and exemplify ecologically sustainable urban models. There is great scope for learning from them to reorient contemporary approaches to urban planning. However, this has not happened so far to any significant extent in India and the urban development models being followed since independence are in fact the cause of further urban problems and loss of heritage. The identity and character of many historically important and beautiful towns has been irrevocably altered. Efforts to protect our heritage have been weak and extremely limited. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and the various State Archeological departments protect only 10,000 monumental structures, which is just a very small fraction of the total number given our rich heritage.
India has attempted an improved system of sustainable planning and governance through the JnNURM (Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission, 2005-2014), which along with urban renewal and improved infrastructure focused on development of Heritage areas/precincts as one of its components. The Ministry of Urban Development circulated toolkits under this Mission for the making of the City Development Plans by the municipal bodies with a focus on heritage. However, there is a need for more such efforts on ground, which could identify and utilize the heritage resources for purposes of urban development. At this stage, it is opportune to set clearer directions for urban projects and it is very vital to exchange and disseminate knowledge, experience and lessons learnt.