The Metropolitan City of Kathmandu has once again caused controversy by erecting concrete structures in Kathmandu Durbar Square, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Earlier in 2017, the city drew heavy criticism from heritage activists and members of civil society for using concrete when restoring the historic Rani Pokhari pond, and last year , she faced similar rebukes for using concrete to line Kamal Pokhari’s pond bed. After criticism, the city had backtracked on its plan on both occasions.
Corn on Saturday evening, the City hastily erected eight concrete pedestals, each about two feet high, on the edge of the Dabali [raised platform] on the south side of the Nautale Durbar to install 35-foot-high poles to display Nepali national flags.
“The city built the concrete structures overnight to avoid protests from locals and heritage activists,” said Ganapati Lal Shrestha, a local Basantapur area resident and activist.
“We have huge respect for the national flag and there are already places to fly it, like at the entrance to Durbar Square. So why is this mayor, Bidya Sundar Shakya, so keen on defiling the heritage site? of UNESCO by erecting concrete plinths?” asked Shrestha.
On Tuesday afternoon, after much criticism from residents, heritage activists and the media, the deputy mayor of the Kathmandu Metropolitan City, Hari Prabha Khadgi, who is also the head of the city’s inspection committee , went to Basantapur and ordered an immediate halt to the ongoing construction works. . She announced that the concrete plinths will be removed.
On Tuesday evening, residents and activists cut down the flag poles. They said they would take down the concrete plinths as well.
“The Basantapur region is a historically significant region. But Mayor Shakya gave permission to build such structures without consulting city officials,” Khadgi said.
A city official who requested anonymity said the city also plans to erect similar concrete flag poles at three other UNESCO World Heritage sites in the valley: Swayambhu, Pashupati and Bauddha. He also plans to build similar flag posts at Rani Pokhari.
“It is unfortunate that the city has not learned from the mistakes it made in Rani Pokhari and Kamal Pokhari,” said Shrestha, the heritage campaigner. He said activists like him would blunt any attempt by the city to “defile” historic sites in the valley.
On Monday, the Department of Archeology had written to the Kathmandu District Administration Office, Kathmandu Metropolitan City Office and other stakeholders to remove the concrete pedestals from Basantapur.
“Previously also the department had written to the City but the latter did not stop the construction work. But he only halted work after protests from residents and activists,” said Damodar Gautam, director general of the Department of Archaeology, who also visited Durbar Square on Tuesday.
Modern constructions are prohibited in Kathmandu Durbar Square. Also Ancient Monuments Preservation Act 2013 (1956) states that structures over a hundred years old must be kept in their original form, and the construction of any new infrastructure is restricted in the area.
“The city must respect the law and we ask the city to be sensitive to these historic sites and monuments,” Gautam added.
Meanwhile, Sandeep Khanal, executive director of Hanumandhoka Palace’s management and conservation office, said his office was aware of new construction work in the city but could do nothing to stop it.
“Because Kathmandu Metropolitan City is itself an autonomous body and never listens to us,” Khanal said.
Khanal said his office asked the city not to erect the concrete pads. “But they didn’t take heed,” Khanal said, thanking locals for their activism.
In 2017, a team of UNESCO experts met in Krakow, Poland to decide whether the Kathmandu Valley, devastated by the violent 2015 earthquake, should be placed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. world in danger.
“The town’s act had us really worried, but thanks to the activists who stopped the construction,” said Devendra Bhattarai, an officer in the Department of Archeology.