Urban Heritage focus: Hrishikesh Oemraw

The Urban Heritage focus interview series introduces four urban professionals and participants of the Urban Heritage Strategies course, which takes place yearly at IHS. The current edition is tailored to four World Heritage Cities, designated by UNESCO: Willemstad (Curaçao), Paramaribo (Suriname), Salvador da Bahia (Brazil) and Sawahlunto (Indonesia). The countries in which the cities are located have a partnership on heritage conservation with the Netherlands. In this series, we invited one representative of each World Heritage City to answer a few questions.

Hrishikesh Oemraw comes from Paramaribo, Suriname and he works for the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture, in the Department of Culture. He is a project manager by profession and an engineer by passion. He is a conscientious person, who works hard and likes to tackle and analyze complex situations and provide solutions or convert program objectives into tangible results.

What determined you to attend this course?

I found out about this course while planning a roadmap and procurement for this course. It was offered to staff of the Paramaribo Urban Rehabilitation Program, for which at the time I was working as the Program Officer. After going through the offer, I realized that it would perfectly complement my current profession as someone working in a program created to contribute to the socio-economic revitalization of Paramaribo. Furthermore, it would introduce me to concepts like OUV which I came across on the work floor but was not (in-depth) familiar with.

Tell us more about your case study, the city you focused on and what you learned from it.

My case study focuses on Paramaribo, specifically the Paramaribo World Heritage Site. I have come to learn is that there is a lack of data for the historic site, which doesn’t allow the author/planner to make a good representation of the city itself, as in almost all cases the data needs to be interpolated from country level to city level. Although, the city itself is the largest in the country some issues are very specific to the inner city and just don’t get any attention on the national level of data collection.

Paramaribo is coping with suburbanization. The inner city has largely transformed into a commercial and administrative hub in recent years, where owners of residential real estate quickly made room to accommodate business and the traffic that comes with it. As a result, the city is very crowded in the morning but will quickly turn very quiet in the after hours.

The city is vulnerable to natural disasters such as floods, erosion, salt intrusion and extreme winds and to a certain extend plagued by pollution resulting from bad local habits.

There is a site management authority, but this institution lacks the legislation to carry out its activities. This can sometimes result in a tense exchange between monument owners and the management authority, but at times can also cause uncertainties for the owners as there is not always a clear and coherent policy which they can consult.

Waka Pasi - a new hotspot within the PWHS

Aside from many vendors that sell foods and crafts, here you will find a highly diverse population

Lim a Po street

During business hours this street is very crowded with hardly any parking space available.

How is your case study city different from the city you live in if you look at urban heritage management?

I live in the Suburban area of Paramaribo. However, my work is located within the world heritage site. So, I am not sure if this question relates to me.  But the area I live in is a quiet neighbourhood trough out the day, as opposed to the very busy historic city centre. There is no urban heritage management as the area where I live is basically a residential neighbourhood.

How does what you learned in this course relate to your own work or to your professional interests?

Every aspect of the course either improved or introduced me to tools and contexts that I as a project manager can utilize during my professional work. For example, the subject “Planning” is something I am very familiar with. However, this course introduced me to a more comprehensive holistic approach to planning compared to the general planning format I learned during my project management study. The concept of Heritage Impact Assessment was new for me and gave me further insight to look at planning in a more sufficient manner than the traditional impact assessment (Environmental and Social).

What takeaways from this course would you use as inspiration further?

We did this course with various other city groups including Willemstad, Sawahlunto and Salvador de Bahia. Although geographically these places are far from each other, they somewhat face similar challenges.

I also expect the challenges to amplify as in the future new habits will introduce us to new issues while something like climate change will only become more severe. In the end there will always be that struggle to find a balance between preservation and conservation of the heritage.

More information

Photo sources: IMoesan Multimedia and Mark Ahsmann.

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