New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday said India needed to evolve a more holistic understanding of heritage conservation that combines preservation efforts with the social and economic needs of the community.

"I would urge the ministry of culture and ASI (Archaeological Survey of India) to seek greater integration of the preservation and conservation efforts in cities with public policies and schemes for urban renewal," Manmohan Singh said at an official function at Vigyan Bhavan to mark the 150th anniversary of the ASI.

"Successful conservation efforts in the past have incorporated local area development through employment generation, boosting local crafts and arts, building of infrastructure, environmental conservation and landscaping."

"The pressures of urbanisation and population growth are now threatening our historic monuments... Unless we act quickly to improve the manner in which we look after these treasures, we will have to answer to the future generations," the Prime Minister warned.

He said archaeology was a "great national enterprise in which different arms of the government should partner with civil society and local communities".

"We should spare no resources and no effort to bring our systems on par with the best in the world. This will of course require imagination and administrative resolve," Manmohan Singh said.

"Our government has placed emphasis on the all-round revitalisation of the ASI. We are committed to giving the maximum professional autonomy in the working of the ASI. We have introduced rules and procedures that will help to bring about greater professionalism in the organisation," he added.

The ASI was founded in 1861 during the British colonial administration by Alexander Cunningham with the help of the then viceroy Charles John Canning.

It administers over 3,650 monuments and archaeological sites and remains of national importance under the provisions of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act.

The Prime Minister said in order to strengthen the intellectual resources of the organisation, the government needs to introduce new ideas and new work cultures and attract talent to the 150-year-old institution.

"The outreach of the ASI needs to be expanded," he said.

Manmohan Singh said: "It is only through a collective enterprise that we can make a paradigm shift in the way we conserve our precious monuments."

"A significant part of our heritage still remains outside the purview of the ASI. The state archaeology departments which are responsible for such monuments and sites need both greater professional and financial support," he added.

The Prime Minister said the Planning Commission has recently suggested a centrally sponsored scheme for this purpose.

"I would advise the ministry of culture and ASI to finalise a scheme which entrusts greater responsibilities to state archaeology departments, universities and research institutes in the task of restoration and conservation of our vast heritage," he said.

He said: "Schemes such as the Cultural Heritage for Youth Leadership scheme, under which we can now give assistance for bringing school children to monuments, museums and cultural spaces, should be expanded."

About ASI's exchange projects, Manmohan Singh said: "The organisation was actively involved in a number of conservation projects of major monuments in Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar."

He said good restoration work has been done in Bamiyan in Afghanistan.

(Agencies)