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India, Taiwan Exchange Knowledge On Promotion, Preservation Of Mountain Railways

New Delhi: India and Taiwan, both endowed with impressive heritage mountain railways, have exchanged knowledge and experience in preserving and maintaining their tangible and intangible rail inventory amid increasing natural disasters due to climate change, officials said on Monday.

While Indian Railways, with its UNESCO World Heritage railway routes, remains a model for technical caretaking and management, the Taiwanese experience in creating an ecologically sensitive tourism model is notable, they said.

The two sides recently took part in a virtual seminar — India-Taiwan Online Forum — on Railway Cultural Heritage Conservation and discussed promotion of thematic heritage tourism. The forum was organised and sponsored by the Ministry of Culture, Taiwan, and co-organised by the Heritage Directorate, Railway Board, Ministry of Railways here.

Indian has three mountain railways, the Kalka-Shimla Railway, the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway and Niligiri Mountain Railway, while Taiwan has Alishan Forest Railway.

“Senior officials from Alishan mountain railways and Takao Railway Museum led the discussion and shared their experience in the field of preservation, interpretation and management of their tangible and intangible railway inventory,” said Moulshri Joshi, an industrial heritage expert who attended the seminar.

The meeting was structured around two sessions namely ‘Preservation of mountain railways and tourism strategies’ and ‘Training, research and skilling of personnel in the management of railway heritage’, she said.

Executive Director (Heritage), Indian Railways Vinita Srivastava made special note of the four pillars of an immersive experience namely, eco-tourism centred around biodiversity of the forest, conservation strategies of hill stations that respect and recreate the natural beauty, high-quality hotel experience extended through curated walks, farmer’s markets etc and engaging story telling enroute the journey that made Alishan a remarkable celebration of railway history.

“Both sides agreed to share knowledge through virtual forums and academic programs around these areas of strength,” said Joshi, an architect and also Advisory Board Member of Taiwan-based Asian Network of Industrial Heritage (ANIH).

Director Miao-Hsiu Huang of Alishan Forest Railway and Cultural Heritage Office described a gap in conducting historical research and noted that the same could be an area of cooperation.

The event was curated by Taipei Economic and Cultural Centre in India and SpaceMatters, Delhi-based design consultancy specialising in industrial heritage.

Three prominent railway organisations co-hosted and led the discussions – Preparatory Office of National Railway Museum (Taiwan), National Rail Museum, New Delhi and National Academy of Indian Railways (NAIR), Vadodara.

ANIH, a think-tank based out of Taichung with an objective to preserve Asia’s vast industrial heritage was the knowledge partner of the event.

An invited set of observers to the event included officials from the four UNESCO World Heritage sites of Darjeeling, Kalka-Simla and Nilgiris railways, and Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus in Mumbai.

During the first session, both sides presented experience and identified gaps on the subject of eco-tourism and sustainable management of mountain railways, Joshi said.

Darjeeling Mountain Railways and Alishan Forest Railways both face risk from natural disasters such as landslides and are keen to address the growing risk to its natural and built heritage in the face of climate change, she added.

The other session dealt with the question of “bridging skill and the knowledge gap” facing those involved in the conservation and management of tangible and intangible railway heritage.

Kalpana Dube, Head of Faculty at National Academy of Indian Railways, Vadodara recommended a “cross cultural knowledge exchange” on best practices in preservation should be a starting point.

National Rail Museum, Delhi urged rail museums to come together on formulating creative strategies to sustain their audience during the pandemic.

Director of NRM, Ashish Gundal expressed keen interest in developing creative strategies to engage the sense of sight, sound, smell and touch of visitors, especially children.

(PTI)

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