Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh has a recorded history of over 400 years, dating back to the Mughal and pre-Mughal era. A large part of the city’s rich cultural heritage; both tangible and intangible, lie in the historic core known as Old Dhaka. There are several traditional neighborhoods with close-knit communities that date back two to three centuries. The communities are rich in social capital gained over successive generations of close social network. Based on this strength, a heritage management system has been developed by informal community bodies in Old Dhaka. Old Dhaka's rich cultural heritage deserves to be conserved for the historical continuity of the city. Unfortunately, the top-down conservation efforts undertaken by the Government are highly bureaucratic and have not been effective in conserving the cultural heritage in most cases. This paper explores the importance of local participatory approach of heritage management in the context of Old Dhaka with a focus on the relationship between social capital and informal heritage management in traditional communities. It also explores the key features that generally make the informal heritage management system more effective than the formal approach. Finally, it recommends an appropriate conservation approach to save the cultural heritage of Old Dhaka where there is a balance between intervention by authorities and continuity of local community involvement.
Keywords: Informal community bodies, Social capital, Heritage management, Old Dhaka.
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