Achi Association India (AAI) was established in 2010 as a not-for- profit, Section-25 company based in New Delhi. It’s aim is to contribute to, and safeguard the outstanding but endangered cultural heritage in the Himalayas. It was founded by people dedicated to the preservation of heritage and scholars specialising in the art, architecture and culture of the region. It is led by directors Joyoti Roy and Abeer Gupta who work with many collaborators and experts from India and abroad. The Association set up a local office in Leh which opened in 2011 and functions with locally trained staff. The Achi Association India regularly collaborates with experts/members of the Achi Association, Zurich on projects basis (both are completely independent of each other as legal entities). One of the founding Directors of the Association was Ms Deldan Angmo who is a well known Conservation Architect from the region.
The involvement and participation of local people is key for sustainable preservation and this is the focus of all projects that are undertaken.
Since its inception, the Association has concentrated its efforts on a number of early monuments in Ladakh which are not protected by the government. An interdisciplinary team of specialists from Europe and India, partly linked to academic programs at different universities, combine in-depth research with hands-on preservation in Achi’s projects. Currently there are several active projects running in the region and many have been successfully completed.
The involvement and participation of local people is key for sustainable preservation and this is the focus of all projects that are undertaken. Since its foundation, the Achi Association India’s work has continuously expanded. This growth has been enabled by the commitment of its stakeholders from different countries who support the organisation through their intellectual contributions, professional expertise and practical work on site. In order to further complement its efforts in the region, educational initiatives coupled with such conservation programmes have been undertaken.
The Association implements its projects in a multi-prong manner – identifying vulnerable and endangered cultural edifices after thorough study and planning, raising funds partly from donations and grants but also ensuring that the local community in Ladakh is equally invested, both in resources, time and commitment so that after projects are completed they can be handed over to a more oriented, aware and responsible community to look after.
An attempt to forge collaborations with local professionals from Ladakh has now created a strong team of conservation architects, art conservators, archaeologists, art historians, sociologists and anthropologists who contribute to projects. There is focus on professional involvement of experts – architects and wall painting conservators who bring world knowledge and expertise to Ladakh.
International and national collaborations prioritize the involvement of academic institutions and universities, for instance collaborations with the University of Graz, Vienna (Austria), University of Udine (Italy) and the National Institute of Design in Ahmadabad (India) have been of primary importance over the years where students and professors have advised on projects and often sent senior experts and interns to work on some of them.
In the years to come, Achi Association India looks at strengthening its local contacts and responding to local needs which are changing with times. There is an increased focus on meaningful response to climate change, saving local traditions, preventing drain of local talent to other cities so that local stakeholders can continue to take fundamental decisions about the region’s heritage and support government initiatives that have been devised responsibly.