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Establishing the nexus between cultural heritage and risk-informed sustainable development: Experiences of understanding and addressing systemic disaster risk from the World Heritage City of Ahmedabad

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The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically impacted all walks of life. Although, the impact of COVID-19 in terms of estimated number of cases & deaths based on anecdotal data is available, the effect and impact, in terms of losses in different sectors await confident comprehension. It is understood that COVID-19 is the consequential manifestation of systemic risk but there are only few studies that goes back in time to investigate the chronic nature of underlying vulnerabilities in a community that is responsible for shaping the disaster at hand. This body of work investigates the process of how the risk, the translation of which contributed to faster transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and relatively higher deaths due to COVID-19 during the first wave, in the World Heritage (old) city of Ahmedabad, had been building over a period of more than 600 years by considering the old city as a ‘system’ and its functional and operational dimensions as ‘sibling systems’. The methodology adopted by the study would help policy-makers to understand how decisions of the present, which disregards the past, can lead to tumultuous consequences, emphasising on the need of local level understanding and assessment of risk through the lens of systems analysis. This study also tries to understand how the overall system (the old city of Ahmedabad) managed to cope with the effect and impact of COVID-19 by leveraging its ways of life and collective consciousness - cultural heritage – to build a case of the urgent need of mainstreaming cultural heritage into risk-informed sustainable development.